cover image Smoke Screen

Smoke Screen

Vincent Patrick, Author William Morrow & Company $24 (352p) ISBN 978-0-688-15536-0

It doesn't take long before the uh-ohs start piling up in this solid thriller exploring a worldwide germ menace by the author of The Pope of Greenwich Village. Thanks to a virus discovered in Zaire in 1989, Cuba now has a biological weapon it can use to blackmail the U.S. just before the 1996 election. But the CIA has a line on the Cuban doctor, Ernesto Rivera, who's coming into the country to release the virus as a demonstration of its lethal capabilities. CIA head Lin Cutshaw asks ex-cop Teddy Tedesco to stage a hotel heist, in the course of which Rivera and his contact will be ""accidentally"" kidnapped. Teddy calls in an old adversary--Frank Belmonte, master thief--and feeds him a cover story, and the reader senses quite rightly that chaos is about to ensue. Patrick doesn't disappoint: when the kidnapping goes wrong, and the Cuban doctor escapes with the swag and the virus, all hell breaks loose, and it's the unlikely alliance between the ex-cop and the robber that propels the rest of the book. Patrick places these two characters in a world where nearly everyone else is out for themselves, including gangsters who want to get made, CIA agents who try clean house and federal agents who see a chance for the score of a lifetime. Patrick weaves these elements together with the casual mastery of a storyteller who plays against conventional plot twists. The result is a refreshingly taut, intelligent work of suspense. Agent, Owen Laster. (Jan.)