By David Morrell
Warner Books, $6.99 1997 (now available in paperback)

Reviewed by Robert Thompson
(Originally reviewed June 25, 1996)

This book is a very good first novel. It flows nicely and is a real page turner. What's that you say? David Morrell is a heavyweight, veteran author? Aye, there's the rub.

Steve Decker is a CIA agent who gets fed up with the job after he more or less gets the blame for a disasterous mission in Italy where a bunch of people die, most of them innocent civilians. Of course it wasn't his fault, it was the fault of another agent, a bungler with big time political connections.

In disgust, Decker "retires" and becomes a real estate broker in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Things go well for about a year, until he sells the house next door to Beth Dwyer. He falls in love with her, but just as things are looking good for them, his old life apparently comes back to haunt them both.

A hit team blasts Decker's bed with automatic weapons and the action begins anew...

That's all the story you are getting here. While most of this convoluted plot is fairly predictible, there are a couple of things that may come as a surprise and I don't want to spoil them.

EXTREME DENIAL lacks the intensity and skill that I expect from Morrell. There are a few plot "holes" and several tactical devices that just wouldn't work in the real world. Some of them fall just short of being silly.

While this book is quite readable, it is a mere snack when you were hoping for a full meal. Usually Morrell will draw you in to the story, make you feel like you are a part of the action, but here, you are rarely more than a spectator.

It would make a pretty decent summer movie--lots of action and pyrotechnics. Alec Baldwin as Decker and Kim Bassinger as Dwyer would be just about the right casting, and Val Kilmer could play the main bad guy.

If you want to pass a few hours with a not very challenging story, give EXTREME DENIAL a try. If you are a big David Morrell fan, try to forget that it has his name on it, and you won't be too disappointed.

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