Eric Talbot, a young student, walks into a Paris bistro, sits down and asks a few questions, meets with a woman and leaves. Later that night, his body is discovered on a dock off the Seine. His stepmother, Sarah Talbot, wants answers. The police have little time for asking questions. So she decides to investigate the murder on her own, joining forces with Sean Egan, a career soldier with an eye for detail and a willingness to kill when necessary. They move fast—a Paris warehouse, a Mafia don's Sicilian fortress, an estate in Ulster, M15 headquarters in London—dropping clues and bodies along the way. The trail eventually leads them to a master criminal and an elusive hit man.
As the Higgins best-selling steam engine chugs on at full throttle, Higgins keeps his dialogue lean and grim. A corpse is found in almost every chapter, no one falls in love, and everyone gets what is deserved. Higgins has been writing these thrillers for so long (Solo, The Eagle Has Landed, Luciano's Luck) under so many different names (his real one is Harry Patterson) that he has the formula down pat. His style is all story, and he wastes little time with such nuisances as setting and character development. If you want a book with hidden messages and ambivalence, look elsewhere. If you want simple action you can enjoy and finish during the hours between lunch and dinner, then crack open a Higgins. (Simon and Schuster, $18.95)