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Francine Mathews spent four years as an intelligence analyst at the CIA, where she trained in operations and worked briefly on the investigation into the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103. A former journalist, she lives and writes in Colorado, where she is at work on her next suspense novel, The Secret Agent.
The kidnapping of the U.S. vice-president, Sophie Payne, sets off a firestorm of CIA intelligence and rescue activity in this first espionage thriller by Mathews, the popular author of the Merry Folger mystery series. After making a controversial speech in Berlin, Payne is abducted by a fringe terrorist group known as 30 April. For CIA operative and protagonist Caroline Carmichael, the kidnapping becomes more complicated when her husband (and associate), Eric, is spotted in the video footage of the abduction, leading her boss to think that he may have turned traitor on his CIA colleagues. Carmichael is chosen to head up the clandestine rescue operation because of her knowledge of the terrorist leader, but the time window for Payne's rescue is reduced considerably when her captors inject the v-p with a deadly anthrax strain. Carmichael sprints to Budapest and then Bosnia, all the while trying to balance her love for her husband with her knowledge of his duplicitous and often deadly tactics. Mathews, a former CIA intelligence analyst, keeps the action moving at a sprightly pace, and her presentation of espionage and CIA tactics is impeccable. But the secondary characters from Eastern Europe are a faceless bunch, and the author focuses so intently on the espionage activity that she ignores the reaction of the world at large to the kidnapping, although she does toss in an intriguing subplot dealing with the possible involvement of the German chancellor in the crime. Mathews makes up for these small flaws by avoiding an obvious formula ending, allowing the final riveting rescue attempt in an abandoned underground concentration camp to end on an unlikely note. It remains to be seen whether Merry Folger readers will make the genre leap with Mathews, but fans of spy thrillers should be alerted to this promising debut. Major ad/promo. (Jan. 30) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
"A high-action thriller." -- USA Today "Fascinating, harrowing, page-flipping intrigue ... A vivid tale of seduction, betrayal, revenge, and international political intrigue." -- The Christian Science Monitor "Fast moving. Mathews has no shortage of imagination." -- People "Thrills you with the CIA, a kidnapping and the hunt. Starts with a bang." -- The Denver Post "A brilliantly intelligent and thrilling read." -- Liz Smith, Newsday And coming soon in hardcover from Bantam Books: The Secret Agent By Francine Mathews