cover image Gideon


Russell Andrews / Author Ballantine Books $24.95 (435p) ISBN 9

The president of the U. S. has a secret so horrifying it even terrifies the priest he confesses to, in this debut thriller pitting ambitious, fallible politicians against a diabolical media mogul. Unsuspecting ghostwriter Carl Granville is enlisted by super-agent Maggie Peterson to take a hand-scrawled, stolen diary and turn it into a million-copy expos --but Carl is kept in the dark about whose story he's writing. The book is known only as ""Gideon"" and when Carl's apartment is trashed, the diary stolen and Maggie murdered, he soon discovers that nobody at the publishing house has any knowledge of the book deal. Branded the main suspect in Maggie's death, Carl goes on the lam, and with his Washington, D.C., ex-girlfriend Amanda Mays, tries to uncover the deadly conspiracy. The mess gets increasingly complicated, as the president commits suicide and the political climate is ripe for the First Lady to bid for the executive position. A homosexual priest, a British billionaire, an elderly midwife who knows all and a killer in disguise figure in the labyrinthine plot. Andrews is a pseudonym for Peter Gethers (The Dandy; The Cat Who Went to Paris) and David Handler (Kiddo): the ghostwriting angle is one of Handler's trademarks (he's the author of the popular Stewart Hoag mysteries). Dead-on publishing in-jokes are a lagniappe (Gethers is the former publisher of Villard); Carl has ghostwritten a series of Kathie Lee Gifford mysteries. Though saturated with winning details, however, the narrative, with its endless twists (blackmail, childhood secrets, love affairs) winds up with several complications too many, and this plethora of side plots dilutes the lucid, cumulative pleasures a good thriller is designed to evoke. $250,000 ad/promo; BOMC and QPB selections; author tour; audio rights: Brilliance Corp.; foreign rights sold to U.K., France and Holland. (June)