Altman, John. Deception. Putnam. May 2003. c272p. ISBN 0-399-15040-4. $24.95. Fiction.

Altman set a high standard for himself with his first two novels, A Gathering of Spies and A Game of Spies, both of which were set in World War II. His third thriller is a contemporary tale that uses high-stakes physics as a catalyst for a chase-driven plot. Having accepted tickets from a friend whose plans have changed, Hannah Gray sets sail from Venice on a cruise to Istanbul. She needs time to think because of her involvement in a Medicare fraud case back home in Chicago. But that’s the least of her problems: she is unwittingly given a paperback with a highly valuable scientific formula written inside. Stephen Epstein, on the run from Applied Data Systems, knows that his formula for predicting the lifetime of microscopic black holes can result in disastrous consequences if it falls into the wrong hands. When he is murdered before he can recover the paperback, Hannah is targeted and soon finds herself pitted against hired killers, Russian spies, a Saudi prince, and American agents. While not as compelling as Altman’s first two novels, this lean, competent thriller is recommended for large public libraries and collections already holding his previous works.

LJ, 128, no. 6 (April 1, 2003), 126.

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