cover image The Zero Hour

The Zero Hour

Joseph Finder. William Morrow & Company, $25 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-688-14450-0

At his best--as in this thriller about a terrorist plot to bring down Wall Street--Finder (Extraordinary Powers, 1994, etc.) rivals the early Frederick Forsyth in his riveting combination of cool prose and hot plot. Indeed, there's more of a hint of the Jackal in Baumann (aka Zero; aka the Prince of Darkness), a freelance terrorist/assassin who can slay and mutilate with ""no visible change in [his] glacial demeanor."" Baumann's new boss is billionaire Malcolm Dyson, an American fugitive in Switzerland who, motivated by greed and vengeance, breaks the terrorist out of a South African jail and agrees to pay him $10 million to trigger worldwide economic catastrophe by blowing up the computer network that's primarily responsible for trading on the Street. Arrayed against Baumann are, among other law-enforcement agencies, the FBI, personalized here through Agent Sarah Cahill, who uncovers links between Dyson's plot, a murdered call girl in Boston and a New York banker with a taste for masochistic sex. What ensues is a cerebral but violent chess game played by Baumann, Cahill and others, with Cahill's young son winding up as pawn. Again in the manner of Forsyth, Finder textures his story line with precise technical expositions; his details on bomb construction are particularly fine. Not impressively original, but controlled with a master hand, this is a thinking person's thriller with bite. 100,000 first printing; major ad/promo; film rights to 20th Century Fox; author tour. (May)