Yevgenni Anatolevich Tarankov, known as the tarantula, is out to turn back the clock in the new Russia and return to the good old days of communism. Ex-CIA officer Kirk McGarvey knows that any chance for Russian democracy rests on his sholders--and on the bullet with the tarantula's name on it.
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Hagberg continues to give fans of old-fashioned melodramatic adventure good value in his sixth book about CIA renegade Kirk McGarvey (following High Flight). Despite occasional bursts of ridiculous dialogue (" `You magnificent fool,' Jacqueline said quietly. `You're going to get yourself killed, aren't you?' "), Hagberg's narrative engine chugs along with speed and power. The plot focuses on a dangerous Russian demagogue, Tarankov, who employs a heavily armed and armored train to take over the Yeltsin government and reunite the Soviet Union in a bloody dictatorship. When Yeltsin himself is blown up by Tarankov's chief crony, a trio of moderates--including Georgian leader Eduard Sheverdnadze--recruit McGarvey, now retired and living in Paris, to assassinate Tarankov and allow Russia to keep stumbling towards democracy. Although nearing 50, McGarvey is "tall and muscularly built but with the coordination of a ballet dancer." Not surprisingly, he spends a lot of time on upkeep: he runs 10 miles and swims five miles every day, and works out "as often as possible" with the French national fencing team. The good-guy Russians offer McGarvey a million dollars and something money can't buy--proof that his parents did not spy for the Russians, which is why he became a CIA agent in the first place. So the super-fit ex-agent hits the ground running--and Hagberg's gift for making all the details of search, deception, hardware and topography come to vivid life carries us along over all the bumps of foolishness and stereotype.