Synopsis: A drug lord puts a million dollar bounty on the head of a journalist who wrote some nasty things about the drug trade. When the journalist is killed, Matt is ordered to make it obvious that no one who puts a bounty on someone like that can be tolerated, and the drug lord must die. So Eric tracks him to his South American hideaway and shoots him. Of course, the fact that Matt's dog was killed the same time Steiner was gives Matt a little incentive to complete the mission, and he brings Vasquez's dog home with him as a replacement.
The Players:
  • Mark Steiner, the journalist, killed by Palomino after being identified by Weatherford and associates.
  • Ruth Steiner, Mark's wife, who concocts a devious way of tracking down her husband's killer.
  • Madeleine Ruston Ellershaw (remember her from The Infiltrators?) comes back to find out why Weatherford's troops are hassling her, and is killed for her curiosity.
  • Roger Ackerman, not his real name, but that is not mentioned in the book anywhere that I noticed. He's head of a super-secret U.S. drug investigatory agency, and a real fanatic on the subject; he also interested in furthering his own career at any cost.
  • Pat Weatherford, rich idealistic kid who hopes to save the world--especially the manatees. She and her associates hope to collect the million dollar bounty on Steiner.
  • Belinda Ackerman, "wife" of Roger, but really just an agent in Ackerman's employ.
  • Hector Palomino Escobar, right-hand man of Gregorio Vasquez, the South American drug lord. He hopes to take over when Vasquez finally meets his maker.

Amorous conquests: Although Matt's initial meeting with Ruth Steiner was not encouraging (he smashes her skull with a shotgun butt), she eventually calls him "darling" and they spend one night together in bed. Belinda also calls him "darling" and she winds up with Matt as his end-of-the-book lover.

Dead: Hard to tell (Mark Steiner, killed by Palomino; Madeline Ruston, killed by grenade tossed by one of Weatherford's people; and Pat Weatherford and three of her associates killed by Vasquez's men. Eric disposed of one of Palomino's men and the female who killed Madeleine with his 14" Bowie knife; tossed Dennis Morton, one of Ackerman's agents, over a cliff into roaring rapids below; and kills or seriously wounds an undetermined number in the big melee at Vasquez's house, just prior to finishing off old Mr. Vasquez himself. Many others died in that final shootout between Palomino's loyalists and Vasquez's troops.)

Injuries to Matt Helm: Helm is relatively unscathed in this adventure, only a few cigarette burns on his chest when Ackerman thought a little torture was needed.

Quote: "Oh, my God, I can't do it."
     I saw a faint smile of triumph touch Vasquez's face. Well, he'd earned it, gambling on his assessment of Ruth Steiner's character. Then the triumph was replaced by shock as Ruth buried her face in her hands. Well, nobody minded her little display of emotion, but in the process she dropped the gun--simply let go of it, as if she'd forgotten its existence, and let it fall.
     You'd think, safety-minded as they are, they'd give high-school firearms-ed courses right along with drivers-ed so everybody would have sense enough not to bounce cocked automatics off tile floors. Clearly the gun was not gimmicked; Vasquez knew what was coming and so did Bo, instinctively swinging the wheelchair away as if he could beat a bullet. All I could do, still sitting at the table, was lift my feet hopefully.
     Then the automatic fired with a deafening crash, and I felt something tug at my pants leg; and all hell broke loose in the fancy dining room as if the ringing, reverberating report had been a signal for everybody to go crazy.

Conclusion: Once again Mac and Eric make the world a slightly safer place to live in. They didn't stop the drug trade, but they both realize that can't be done, anyhow. And there's always at least one more bad guy to be taken care of, as 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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