Jack Higgins has long been regarded as the alpha dog of the thriller genre. Ian Fleming is long gone, Trevanian has turned his hand to westerns, and Tom Clancy has been co-creating Op-Center books for the last several years, generally regarded less favorably than his outstanding Jack Ryan series. Day of Reckoning, the new Jack Higgins novel, brings together all of the elements that have long been staples in thrillers: the IRA, the Mossad, the British crime underworld, the Mafia, the FBI, and conspiracies within conspiracies.

When the journalist ex-wife of a prominent FBI agent is murdered while doing an expose on a Mafia don, the agent musters forces on both sides of the Atlantic to wreak his revenge. It seems that the don is hurting for liquid assets and has engaged in some nefarious dealings with Irish and Middle Eastern terrorists. It is left to reformed IRA assassin Sean Dillon to throw a monkey wrench into the works, first to discredit the mafioso and then to bring him to the Halls of Justice or the Gates of Hell. Dillon rather favors the latter.

Halfway 'round the world, one of New York's finest gets drafted as an unwilling security aide to a presidential hopeful in Les Standiford's latest, Black Mountain. The candidate, long an advocate (so he says) of environmental issues, is headed to the Rocky Mountains with his entourage of hangers-on and security personnel for a week of soul searching, relaxation, and communing with nature.

The friendly seaplane pilot drops the party at a remote mountain lake, then taxies across the smooth water, lifting off like Sky King into the blue of the Western sky. Moments later, the party is horrified to hear the sounds of failing engines, the whine of an airplane falling from the sky; they watch helplessly as the small plane crashes into a mountainside. Stranded, and with no choice but to backpack their way home to civilization, the somber trekkers set out. A series of accidents ensues, taking the lives of several of the group, and leaving the survivors convinced that they are the targets of a force more sinister than even Murphy's Law.

Black Mountain is a thoroughly modern novel of corruption, intrigue, and murder at the highest levels. As is often the case with the new wave of thrillers, the hero is a character with complex motivations, a common man in an uncommon situation certainly not the urbane, unruffled James Bondian superhero of thrillers past.

Day of Reckoning and Black Mountain provide a fascinating counterpoint to one another, as well as great back-to-back reading.

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