Synopsis: Matt's assignment seems fairly simple. Identify a Soviet hit-man's target, and then kill the hit-man. This is done before the book hardly began, but then things get more complicated. There are missing millionaires to be found, an old enemy returns, and a convoluted plot to kill our hero is foiled by book's end.

The Players:
  • Pavel Minsk, Russian agent, killed much to easily by Helm. Turns out he was set up to be killed by Helm, so other Soviet agents could then kill Helm.
  • Lacey Rockwell--actually a Soviet agent posing as Lacey Rockwell--was ostensibly Minsk's target, but was really supposed to lure Helm into a trap. She was killed by Fred, one of Mac's men backing Helm up. (The real Lacey Rockwell survives.)
  • Bill Hazeltine, "Big Bill," Texas millionaire, who thinks he convinced Mac to loan Eric out to him for his own purposes. Hazeltine dies from wound received during escape from the Cuban navy.
  • Robin Rosten, now using the name Harriet Robinson, who we met back in Murderer's Row, tries to get a little revenge for having her glorious plans spoiled by Helm. However, being a practical woman, she sees the advantages of being on Helm's side. She survives to return again sometime.
  • Lorna, from the previous novel, one of Mac's people. After spending some time with Matt after their last assignment together (The Intriguers), she goes off to her next mission and doesn't come back. For some reason, unexplained, she is called "Laura" in this novel.

Amorous conquests: Helm is reunited with Robin Rosten, now "Cap'n Hattie," and they conclude a romantic relationship interrupted back in an earlier novel. She calls him "darling."

Dead: Not sure, but quite a few (Hazeltine, killed by the Cubans; the phony Miss Rockwell, killed by Fred; Ramsey Pendleton, one of Col. Stark's British agents, killed by Morgan, a Soviet agent; Morgan, killed by his own people, probably; Leo Gonzales and his gang, killed by Soviet agents; and a few more killed by Leo and his outfit. Matt Helm only added one notch this time out--Pavel Minsk.)

Injuries to Matt Helm: Minor bullet wound inflicted by Minsk an instant before Helm killed him. Otherwise, no damage.

In this novel, Matt tells the story about his experiences as a college freshman:
     "It was in college, the first college I went to, a real gung-ho place. It had a kind of ornamental pool, called the Lily Pond, although it was mostly muck and weeds. The upper classmen, if they disapproved of the behavior of a lower classman, had the cute habit of descending on him in force, dragging him out to this glorified mud puddle, and heaving him in. It was kind of an old school tradition."
     "Well, one day the grapevine let me know I was next on the dunking list. I'd been expecting it. I'd been planning on upholding the school honor in such individual sports as fencing and rifle-shooting, but the seniors had decided I ought to go out for basketball because of my height. I'd told them frankly that if there was anything that turned my stomach, it was team sports of any kind, particularly the ones that became college religions. That hadn't gone over real big, if you know what I mean. Well, I just didn't feel like an involuntary bath that evening, so I laid out a hunting knife and wedged a chair under the doorknob of my room. It was a fairly feeble old chair and the back was cracked, but nobody knew that be me. I just wanted some evidence that they'd actually broken in. There weren't any locks in that dormitory that worked. It was a real togetherness institution. You weren't supposed to want privacy, ever. That was considered antisocial and un-American."
     "Well, they came. There was the usual loud-mouthed beery mob. They yelled at me to open the door. I called back that I hadn't invited them, and if they wanted in, they knew what to do. They did it. The first one inside after they'd smashed the door open was the big school-spirit expert who'd given me the pep-talk about how I didn't want to let the college and the basketball team down. He was very brave. He told me not to be silly, I wasn't really going to use that knife, just put it down. I told him when he put a hand on me, I'd cut it off. So he did; and I did. Well, not all the way off. I understand they sewed it back on and he got some use out of it eventually. Nevertheless, the immediate result was a lot of groans and gore, very spectacular. I told the rest it was a sample, and I had plenty more if anybody wanted. Nobody did."
     "They threw me out of that school, of course. Having a weapon in my room, was the official excuse. The broken chair, proving they'd forced their way in, saved me from being sued or arrested for assault, but nobody ever did anything about any of the others besides a sort of token reprimand."
     "Three years later I read in the papers that there was a big scandal at that school. You see, another bunch of arrogant seniors had got hold of another poor dumb freshman whose behavior wasn't to their liking; and they'd given him the old school heave--only, it turned out, there was some kind of a rusty drainpipe out there in the muck that nobody'd ever noticed. He landed right on it. The last I heard, he was still alive, if you can call it living. He can blink his eyelids once for yes and twice for no, or vice versa. Every time I think of him, I remember my old hunting knife with much affection. It hadn't been for those six inches of cold, sharp steel, that human vegetable might have been me."

Conclusion: Once again Eric makes the world a little safer, finds a new girlfriend (the daughter of one of the millionaires), and rests up with her until duty calls him away in . . .

Matt Helm ™ is the property of Donald Hamilton.
and is a Trademark of Integute AB
This independent reference to, and appreciation of, the Matt Helm book series
is copyright 1998-2012 - Don Winans
Originally posted in June 1998 - Last Modified 22 July 2000
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