cover image Starik


Jeff Rovin / Author Dutton Books $17.95 (309p) ISBN 978-0-525-

A 64-year-old Harvard professor indulging in derring-do in the Moscow Metro may be a bit farfetched as a protagonist, but this doomsday thriller is credible nonetheless. Soviet Chairman Cherganyev, a fanatical worshipper of Lenin (""Starik,'' the Old One), starts a war in the Middle East to isolate Israel and the U.S. from their allies. The desperate Israelis are about to launch biological warfare, codenamed ``Project 17.'' And if the Middle East fighting gets out of hand, right-wing U.S. President Alexander plans to use a Stealth bomber to drop a nuclear load in Red Square. Though he is not an administration supporter, Russian-born Kremlinologist Joe Rosenstock is called to the White House from Cambridge by the defecting Soviet ambassador Fedorsenko, an old Russian war-horse who's sure that the chairman's devotion to Lenin is turning into megalomania that will lead to Stalinist paranoia and terror. Rosenstock comes up with a planto steal Lenin's body from its Red Square tombthat will publicly embarrass Cherganyev and topple him from power. Lacking presidential approval but helped by the CIA director, Rosenstock goes to Moscow to pull off his scheme. The authors generate some real suspense, but readers may enjoy even more the depiction of neo-Stalinist claustrophobia and the clever characterization of Kremlin and Oval Office posturing. (March)