Picks and Pans Review: The Doomsday Conspiracy

updated 09/16/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 09/16/1991 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Sidney Sheldon

Peter Benchley rewrites Jaws with an ecological theme. Naked Gun 2½ takes on an energy-wasting cartel. Now, Sheldon chimes in with a save-the-planet plot.

Of course, for Sidney, that means having the glamorous heroine—Jaclyn Smith, here's your Burning Bed—arrive on a UFO.

As the novel opens, Comdr. Robert Bellamy has sacrificed his marriage and any semblance of a life to his Naval Intelligence job. But it's when he gets a wake-up call from the National Security Agency that his troubles really begin.

Bellamy is told to track down a busload of tourists who witnessed the crash of a NATO weather balloon. His instructions are to find the witnesses—who, the agency says, may have glimpsed some top-secret military equipment—and turn over their names to NSA. "Others," he is told, "will talk to them about the necessity of silence."

Sound fishy? Not to Robert, who, while he can speak six languages and survive death by burning aircraft, can't spot a spy twist without a gun pointed at his head.

Oh, well. Eventually—some 200 pages after the reader—Robert catches on to the real menace, and the obvious conspiracy does little to impair Sheldon's rip-roaring chase. Nor does his sentimental environmental message fail to impress.

Contemporary and compelling, this novel unfolds at the speed of an escaping saucer (and yes, Sheldon hints, he believes!). It is also a reminder that—TV movies be damned—the oft-ridiculed author remains the master of the best-selling game. (Morrow, $22)

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