cover image White House

White House

David Hagberg. Forge, $25.95 (384pp) ISBN 978-0-312-86682-2

A nuclear showdown in the Far East becomes the backdrop for Hagberg's latest installment in the Kirk McGarvey series, which begins when the CIA operative is nearly wiped out by a terrorist bomb while dining in a Georgetown restaurant. The bomb does kill McGarvey's erstwhile girlfriend and severely injures his daughter. He soon discovers that the purpose of the attack was to keep him from accepting a promotion to become the head of CIA operations. As McGarvey assumes his new duties, an underground nuclear explosion off the coast of the Korean peninsula becomes the focal point of a confrontation between China, Japan and North Korea, and McGarvey quickly traces an intelligence leak to a wealthy Asian businessman who exerts a powerful influence over a variety of high-powered legislators and the U.S. president himself. As an American nuclear submarine battles to keep the potential combatants in the Far East apart, the focus of the intrigue shifts from the North Koreans to the president and finally to Japan when McGarvey discovers some suspicious behavior surrounding a major Japanese space launch that eventually results in the murder of a U.S. astronaut. Hagberg's premise of a potential nuclear meltdown is frighteningly plausible, and he deftly juggles several well-researched subplots involving the commander of the American submarine, the American astronauts assigned to the space mission and the hyperactively heroic McGarvey, who must defend his family from another attack before embarking on a one-man mission to stop the launch. While his climactic mission stretches credibility to the breaking point, Hagberg delivers a powerful payload of action, suspense and political intrigue in the meantime. (Aug.)