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Critical Mass
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Jocelyn "Joss" Cole, a burned-out public defender from L.A., has opted for a quieter life in the San Juan Islands of Washington State. Joss has no significant clients other than a group of commercial fisherman suffering from a strange and serious illness, a condition that doctors cannot diagnose, and which Joss believes has an industrial cause. Then into her office comes Dean Belden, a well-heeled client in search of a lawyer to help him set up a business in the islands. Within days Belden is subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury. Less than an hour after testifying, and before Joss can discover what happened in the secrecy of the grand jury room, Belden dies in a fiery explosion of his float plane on Seattle's Lake Union. Gideon Van Ry is a nuclear fission expert and a scholar in residence at the Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California. One of his duties is to update the Center's database, an extensive catalog listing fissionable materials and weapons of mass destruction. Gideon is troubled by the apparent failure to account for two small tactical nuclear devices missing from a storage facility in the former Soviet Union.The two weapons were last seen in packing crates, to be shipped to an American company called Belden Electronics. Gideon has been unable to locate this firm, and now he is left with only one possible lead, the lawyer who incorporated the company-Jocelyn Cole. Fraught with tension and suspense, Critical Mass is Steve Martini at his electrifying best. It is the story of what can happen in a world where private hate and public apathy combine to uncork the sleeping but deadly genie of nuclear terror.
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About the Author

Steve Martini worked as a newspaper reporter in Los Angeles and as a capital correspondent at the state house in Sacramento, California. An honors graduate at the University of California at Santa Cruz, Mr. Martini holds his law degree from the University of the Pacific's McGeorge School of Law. He has written widely on the law and politics, having covered both state and federal courts, the state legislature, and the administrations of governors Ronald Reagan and Jerry Brown. In 1984 Martini turned his talents to fiction, quickly earning positions on bestseller lists and garnering both critical and popular praise for his New York Times-bestselling novels, including The Simeon Chamber, Compelling Evidence, Prime Witness, Undue Influence, The Judge, The List, Critical Mass, The Attorney, The Jury, and The Arraignment. Mr. Martini lives on the West Coast.

Reviews

Martini, who in previous books has demonstrated his considerable skill in the construction of legal thrillers (e.g., The Judge), tries his hand with somewhat disappointing results at a military technothriller … la Tom Clancy. Two nuclear devices disappear from the weapons-dismantling facility in the former Soviet Union and end up in the hands of a domestic militia group with a grudge against the U.S. government. The detection of the theft by Gideon van Ry from the California-based Center for Nonproliferation Studies sets him and lawyer Jocelyn Cole on an unlikely quest to locate the devices and prevent the nuclear destruction of Washington, DC. The action here is fast-paced but formulaic, and the characterizations are extremely thin; Martini is clearly writing for a movie-going rather than a book-reading audience. Frank Muller's consummate skill with the dramatic reading is as superlative as always; however, most mystery and thriller fans, especially those of the author's previous work, will be disappointed. Purchase only as demand warrants.ÄKristen L. Smith, Loras Coll. Lib., Dubuque, IA Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.

A militia group in the Pacific Northwest becomes the world's newest nuclear power in this by-the-numbers thriller by the author of The List and The Judge. Lawyer Jocelyn "Joss" Cole sees a big retainer when she's hired by Dean Belden to handle his company's incorporation filings. But after Belden gets a federal subpoena, Joss sees him die in a fiery seaplane explosion. Now she's the only visible link to Belden's company (which was on the receiving end of two decaying nuclear weapons smuggled into the U.S. out of Russia), and that brings her to the attention of arms inspector Gideon van Ry, of the Institute Against Mass Destruction. After the feds determine that the militia has possession of the weapons, Gideon and Joss join the race to try to avert nuclear disaster. Of course, there are complications: the militia group is being fronted by a foreign power in order to circumvent U.S. nuclear retaliation policy, and the President is in CYA (cover-your-ass) overdrive because his party accepted a campaign contribution from the chief Russian culprit. But even with a SEAL assault on the militia stronghold, double crosses galore and an ingenious ending, the book offers too few surprises, too little suspense and too little emotional involvement. The characters have no inner life, and the plotting is sketchy from the start, when it's explained that dummies were used to cover up for the two missing nukes‘dummies that conveniently drop off the weapons count while there's still time to foil the bad guys. The few crucial coincidences stick out like red flags because Martini makes more of them than he makes of the people around them. (Sept.)

YA‘Intense military action combines with international intrigue to make this nuclear-age thriller a page-turner. The story starts out with numerous plots and characters, each interesting in itself, and all are pulled together by a gripping conclusion. Jocelyn Cole, an attorney living on a remote island in Puget Sound, is hired to represent a client incorporating his electronics business. After her client is subpoenaed to testify before the federal grand jury for international armaments smuggling, Jocelyn watches in horror as his plane explodes, with him onboard. She is then assaulted and held hostage by her "dead" client on an island where a homegrown militia is assembling a nuclear device. The bomb is destined for Washington, D.C. The clock ticks ominously as Jocelyn and an employee of the Institute Against Mass Destruction race to stop the detonation. The unique glimpse into the manufacturing, storing, and eventual decay of the nuclear arsenal stored around the globe makes this an insightful, informative, and terrifying novel.‘Anita Short, W. T. Woodson High School, Fairfax, VA

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