cover image The Killing Ground

The Killing Ground

Jack Higgins, . . Putnam, $25.95 (310pp) ISBN 978-0-399-15380-8

After almost two score books, many of them bestsellers, Higgins (Without Mercy ) knows how to fire up a thriller. In the first half-dozen pages, he establishes his London locale; reintroduces recurring lead Sean Dillon, the colorful former IRA man turned British intelligence antiterrorism op; has Sean shoot a smalltime hood's ear off; and intimates there are much bigger fish to fry beyond the hood's Russian employer. The real villain is a Muslim extremist of the al-Qaeda variety: Hussein Rashid, aka the Hammer of God, and one of the most successful assassins alive, with 27 certified kills of American and British soldiers and Iraqi politicians. Hussein has his sights set on Charles Ferguson, head of British intelligence. It's a longstanding grudge, complicated by the recent kidnapping of Hussein's promised bride, his 13-year-old cousin Sara, who was earlier kidnapped by Hussein himself. The proceedings are complicated; it helps if the reader is a veteran of this long-running series. But it's all pure Higgins: almost every shot hits square between the eyes, and all the characters are hard lads indeed. (Jan.)