In Europe, the Americans are pulling out their troops in a tide of isolationism.
Britain, torn between loyalties to America and the continent, is caught betwixt and between.
In America, a space shuttle crashes on landing, killing all but one of the crew on-board: A British man named Mike Dreyfuss, who will become vilified by the US press and protesters.
Halfway across the world, Martin Hepton, an English ground control technician watches as they lose contact with the most advanced satellite in Europe. A colleague of Hepton's who suspects something strange is going on is signed off sick, and never comes back.
Hepton decides to investigate his friend's suspicions and his trail leads him to Dreyfuss, the MI6, the American military, and back to his former girlfriend, Jill, who is an up-and-coming journalist with the contacts and the courage to cover the story.
But there is much more at stake than anyone realises - and many more people on their trail than they can possibly evade...
First published in 1990 and long out of print, this sophomoric thriller from bestseller Rankin (the John Rebus series) opens at a ground tracking station in England, where technician Paul Vincent notices that Zephyr, Britain's latest spy satellite, has gone offline. In the U.S., the space shuttle Argos crashes, killing everyone aboard except for a British astronaut, Maj. Mike Dreyfuss. Could there be a connection? To keep the Zephyr fiasco quiet, the Brits seclude Vincent in a hospital, where he's soon on his deathbed; he manages a final utterance to his friend Martin Hepton: "Argos." Hepton subsequently realizes he's being followed and his life is in danger. Meanwhile, Dreyfuss is recovering in a hospital in the States, but is also being kept out of the public eye. Decent prose doesn't compensate for poor plotting. In a preface, Rankin admits the novel had problems, but finds some resonance with current events. That's a thin and unconvincing justification for this reissue, which does the author's reputation no favors. This one's strictly for Rankin completists.