cover image Clawhammer


Sam Llewellyn. Pocket Books, $20 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-671-78989-3

An air of authenticity and masterful detailing keep this rousing tale buoyant despite its tangled plot lines. Before avenging the deaths in Ethiopia of his sister and her husband, a former country singer, poet George Devis looks into the philanthropic organization for which they had worked. Although the local terrorist leader quickly emerges as a prime suspect, Devis also wonders why the late singer insisted that his two young sons return to the isolationist, fundamentalist New England cult that he himself had rejected in his youth. Further questions are posed when a radioactive corn sample is found, in lieu of ashes, in the murdered couple's urn. Llewellyn, an English author known for his highly effective nautical mysteries, sets Devis on a jaunt across the Atlantic that publicizes the murder and flushes out the killer and brings the poet help from a crusty sea dog and a pretty, ambitious woman journalist. The sailing scenes are terrific, the American characters are provided with highly credible dialogue and the various moments when Devis seems about to cash in his chips (in dense sea fog, on the bridge of a collapsing airship) are suitably tense. Why all this is happening is, however, never made quite as clear as most readers might wish. (Jan . )