Picks and Pans Review: The Matarese Countdown

updated 01/12/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 01/12/1998 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Robert Ludlum

Two decades have passed since swaggering American spy Brandon Scofield saved the world—and sold millions of books—by squashing a memorable cabal of power-crazed killers in The Matarese Circle. But it seems he didn't get quite all of them. In Ludlum's latest thriller, his 22nd, the Matarese have resurrected their plans to throw the world into economic and political chaos—then step in and take charge. And Scofield—crankier, creakier but no less steely nerved—is called back to join a battle fought in a global theater, from the hills of Corsica to CIA headquarters in Langley, Va.

Countdown lacks some of its predecessor's punch, and readers will miss Circle's paranoia-packed tension between Scofield and his late KGB counterpart, Vasili Taleniekov. But Ludlum makes up for it by providing first-rate suspense and a healthy dose of humor along with the usual derring-do. Sure, they're still fighting to save civilization. But these days they have more fun doing it. (Bantam, $27.50)

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