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(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Following the apparent suicide of Secret Service agent Ray Stryker, presidential bodyguard Jack Powers is given an “off-the-record” assignment by Peter Sullivan, the deputy director of the Secret Service. Sullivan orders Powers to investigate Stryker’s connections with Marilyn Kassindorf, a CIA operative assigned to the White House staff. Sullivan reveals that for some time Kassindorf has been the president’s mistress. Now it appears that she and Stryker were engaged in some sort of high-level espionage activity.

Powers follows Kassindorf to Germany, where his cover is blown. She seduces him and then disappears, only to turn up in a CIA report as a defector to the Syrians. Powers returns home in embarrassment to discover that the president has asked for his resignation. Out of a job, Powers begins his own investigation. What he discovers leads him to believe that someone close to the President is engaged in a complex scheme to sell state secrets and to take over the White House. The question is, whom can Powers trust with his information and how can he present his information to the President without tipping his hand to whomever is behind the elaborate plot?

Gerald Petievich paints his espionage thriller in broad, primary-color strokes. Occasionally he is simply sloppy—as for example, in the last pages of the tale in which the villain is seen subdued in handcuffs on one page and casually referred to as dead on the next. Petievich uses his background as a Secret Service agent to advantage, dotting the story with insider’s details about the operations of the president’s body guards. He stretches the reader’s willing suspension of belief beyond the breaking point, however, when he asks us to accept that Powers’ insider’s knowledge extends to a flaw in the security at Camp David which allows the ex-agent to slip into the compound undetected for a midnight visit to the president’s bedroom.