centering on a top-secret raid to assassinate legendary Nazi General Erwin Rommel. ``It is a good thing to remember,'' writes Gifford, ``that once...there was a great moral conflict...that had to be won.'' This epic thriller is a tribute to the valor of those who fought in that conflict. At its heart stand three resonant characters--top Yank reporter Rodger Godwin and two Brits: Cilla Hood, the film star whom Rodger loves, and Max Hood, a war hero who rode with Lawrence in Arabia--and who's Rodger's friend but also Cilla's husband. Gifford opens with a powerhouse scene: a Blitz-bombing of a London club that sees the three principals aiding the wounded-- Max in the lead, as always, with Rodger and Cilla following and stealing glances even as they work; a dying mother's concern solely for her child sets the theme of stalwart courage. A year later, Rodger and Cilla are tormented lovers, and Rodger's guilt grows when he's visited by Churchill (one of many sharp historical cameos scattered throughout), who asks him to cover the desert foray to kill Rommel--a raid to be led by Max. During the exciting unfolding of the expedition, all the raiders, including Max, die in an ambush--except Rodger. Cut to 1927 and an extended Paris-set flashback that details the cementing, through violence, of Rodger and Max's bond and of their love for the then-pubescent Cilla. Cut back to the war: It's clear that someone betrayed the expedition- -and Rodger, sleeping with Max's wife, is the chief suspect. Rodger, though, tracks down the real culprit and kills him--or does he? A violent, storm-swept climax reveals the twisty, if not terribly surprising, truth. Positively stirring.