cover image Desert Fire

Desert Fire

David Hagberg. Tor Books, $21.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-312-85496-6

The topical premise of this fast-paced but ultimately flat thriller is that Saddam Hussein has cut a deal with Germany to train Iraqis in nuclear technology. Recognizing the problematic nature of the project, the German government will do anything to keep the deal secret. But then Ahmed Pavli, a woman sent by the BND (German Secret Service) to spy on an Iraqi nuclear worker, is brutally murdered. The BND assigns the case to federal investigator Walther Roemer, whose father, the Butcher of Dachau, is now an old man dying in a Swiss sanitorium. When another woman--an investigative journalist--is killed in the same brutal manner as Pavli, Roemer grows increasingly distrustful of the agent's BND contact, Major Ludwig Whalpol. As Roemer tries to build a case against Whalpol, the secret of his father's whereabouts is discovered by Roemer's Iraqi counterpart, Leila Khaled. Roemer's efforts to close the investigation and protect his father build to a finish which is potentially explosive but ultimately anti-climactic. Although Hagberg's ( Countdown ) style is unobtrusive and his subplots are well laid-out, the action--whether in the cause of espionage or romance--is perfunctory. (July)