cover image Stone Dancer

Stone Dancer

Murray Smith. Pocket Books, $22 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-78485-0

Even though this far-flung, fast-moving second novel features a higher body count and more betrayals than most Jacobean melodramas, Smith's control of his narrative remains impeccable throughout. The SIS's David Jardine, returning from the author's first spy thriller (Devil's Juggler) but newly plucked from the field and relegated to a desk job, is called to Beirut by his top agent there, only to be kidnapped by the Mossad. The Israelis tip him to two ex-agents (Mossad and KGB) who are running ever more grandiose financial scams with the ultimate goal of wrecking a major world currency. Complicating matters are some betrayals: Jardine's agent (and former lover) Alisha Abdul-Fetteh is doubling for the Israelis, and his boss, Sir Steven McCrae, wants to sack him. The plot focuses alternately on Jardine (who travels to Russia and New York) and the criminal masterminds (who visit St. Petersburg, Sicily, Washington, Fort Knox and New York), with the action climaxing in a bloody cliffhanger set in a Manhattan loft. In the shadows are the Mossad, the KGB, the new Russian mafia and a group of old Communist hardliners, each with its own agenda and each portrayed as vividly as are the scenic backdrops. Even minor characters have terrific bios here; one British spy who aids Jardine is described as ``Renfield, to Jardine's Count Dracula.'' Other touches of humor add to the satisfying fun, but the compelling and appealing center of this very fine thriller remains Jardine, a bit of a scamp but suave, brave, ruthless and smart-just what 007 would like to be if he ever grew up. BOMC alternate selection; major ad/promo. (Nov.)