Picks and Pans Review: The Sands of Time

updated 01/23/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/23/1989 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Sidney Sheldon

Seeing a title like that, a reader of this novel might expect some wisdom of the ages, a new approach to historical events or at least an appearance by the Beach Boys. If only. To call this book a potboiler would be an insult to kitchen utensils everywhere. The story of a Basque terrorist, his gang and four nuns he goes on the lam with in 1976, it is sloppily written and edited, preposterous even in its most plausible moments and a lot closer to being funny—particularly in its all too plentiful, slapdash sex scenes—than it is to being convincingly dramatic. About its only useful function, in fact, is that Sheldon decided that his characters, though they're almost all Spanish, should talk in English except every once in a while. Then they throw in a few words in Spanish, thereby giving college freshmen everywhere a good chance to have some vocabulary practice. ("Hey, Sally, does 'mi casa es su casa' mean 'I am imagining what your male hardness would be like' or 'my home is your home'?") Sheldon, author of Bloodline, Rage of Angels, Master of the Game and other miniseries fodder, seems to have just jotted down the first witless notions that came into his head. He mixes his metaphors with abandon: "The silence was like a gentle snowfall, soft and hushed, as soothing as the whisper of a summer wind, as quiet as the passage of stars." The ruthless colonel who is determined to trap the terrorist, even if it means raping nuns (it does), says things like, "I have an orgasm when I kill. It doesn't matter whether it's a deer or a rabbit or a man—there's something about taking a life that makes you feel like God." In Chapter 15, Sheldon introduces the Scott family, Americans who are nonetheless related to the plot (telling how wouldn't spoil much of a surprise but it would be very boring); in Chapter 16, he introduces them again, as if he had forgotten all about Chapter 15 (which would not have been all that bad an idea, come to think of it). As the colonel and the terrorist head toward their inevitable, dumb final confrontation, nuns and terrorists fall in love with each other like crazy. The daughter of a Mafia don is made to seem like a heroine when she manages to get his money out of a Swiss bank account, a wolf attacks, flashbacks keep occurring to fill many chapters, and Spain is made to appear like a nation of imbeciles. The nuns, of course, can't resist comparing their formerly cloistered lives with the newly discovered phenomena of the outside world. At one point one of them thinks, "God isn't going to like this." Amen, Sid. (Morrow, $19.95)

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