cover image The Vets

The Vets

Stephen Leather. Pocket Books, $22 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-74303-1

Five Vietnam War vets--pilots, mechanics and seasoned soldiers--are brought together in Vietnam for what they think is a reconciliation program. What they don't know is that they are about to be involved in a bank heist on a grand scale. But in this intricately plotted novel by the author of The Chinaman , politics--from Tiananmen Square to China's reacquisition of Hong Kong in 1997--are the true motivating factors. The instigator of the crime is an expatriate Chinese named Anthony Chung who enlists the ruthless soldier-of-fortune Col. Joel Tyler to recruit and train the veterans. The vets, for various reasons (only one of them money), agree to participate in what they believe will be the robbery of the Hong Kong racetrack, though the real caper is to be an audacious helicopter attack on the Kowloon and Canton bank. Convincing descriptions of Hong Kong's criminal and sexual underworld, a fine and humane dialogue between war veterans from both sides and graphic descriptions of the victims of Agent Orange, account for the lengthy buildup in Leather's fifth thriller. But once the action gets underway, the story moves at breakneck speed, keeping the reader in suspense right to the end. (Sept.)