Jack Higgins, . . Berkley, $7.99 (259pp) ISBN 978-0-425-18736-4

Previously published in England under Higgins's real name, Harry Patterson, this 1960s police thriller is the first of three featuring Detective Nick Miller to be released in the United States. Ben Garvald, a notorious thief, is finally getting out of prison, much to the dismay of his former wife and sister-in-law, who go so far as to enlist police protection. While Miller, an educated officer versed in judo and karate, tracks Garvald, hoping that the ex-con will lead him to stolen money never recovered from his final crime, Detective Constable Brady, a jealous colleague of Miller's, secretly confronts Garvald's ex-partner in an effort to solve the case himself. Instead, Brady winds up in a hospital bed, and Garvald, having witnessed the attack, becomes a target. Despite Miller's sophisticated front, he muscles information out of Garvald's acquaintances with the finesse of a hardboiled detective. Miller's abrasive personality takes some getting used to, as does his way with words (like a true '60s detective, he refers to women as "birds" and "tarts"). Though mystery buffs will appreciate the Mickey Spillane-like characters and cadence, this straightforward procedural lacks the espionage elements and historical content of Higgins's bestselling novels (The Eagle Has Landed) and may prove too dated for popular consumption. (Dec. 3)