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Michael Crichton, writing at John Lange. Hard Case Crime, $9.95 trade paper ISBN 978-1-78329-125-0

A daring plot to launch a devastating bio-terror attack on the U.S. is the engine that drives this pulse-pounder Crichton wrote in 1972 under the John Lange pseudonym. Admirers of Crichton's better known scientific thrillers such as Jurassic Park will recognize the opening device; to make what follows seem more realistic, the book begins with a rendering of "the facts" that reads as if it was derived from a government report. Seven mobsters have hijacked a train carrying two canisters containing hazardous chemicals that were subsequently spirited away by helicopter, despite precautions to keep secret the transport schedule. The theft of a half-ton of nerve gas may be at the behest of millionaire John Wright, founder and leader of an extremist political movement, Americans for a Better Nation, and a gifted mathematician and expert in the area of "two-component interactions." The efforts to forestall disaster are appropriately suspenseful, and fans of post-9/11 thrillers will find a welcome alternative in the author's treatment of a familiar storyline set in the recent past. (Oct.)