Spy novels have a time-honored formula: plunk the hero down in a foreign country, compromise his cover immediately, then get him the hell out. Thomas's latest (after A Hood Crow ) is one of those top-notch examples that make you forget the formula even as they adhere to it. Brisk action, gripping suspense and a cynical look at international politics mark this latest adventure of British secret agent Patrick Hyde, called out of retirement by Peter Shelley, the new Director General of the Secret Intelligence Service, to run an errand in India. One of Shelley's operatives, Philip Cass, is accused of murdering his lover, the wife of V. K. Sharmar, a government minister who is next in line to be prime minister of India. Sharmar, a former classmate of Shelley's and a "friend" of Her Majesty's government, has framed Cass for the killing because the agent has uncovered evidence that the politician is a heroin smuggler. When the current prime minister dies, Sharmar's prominence increases and Cass's tenuous ties to the SIS home office are weakened. Cass has become an embarrassment to the British government and Hyde is ordered to eliminate the problem. But Hyde is not about to let the man who once saved his life languish in jail, or be "shot trying to escape." The action begins almost immediately, the pace never flags and Thomas's prose is direct and unobtrusive: no flab, no filler, all muscle.