Cotton Malone teams with old heartthrob Cassiopeia Vitt on a dangerous mission to retrieve a priceless Chinese lamp from the third century B.C.E. in Berry's rousing fifth thriller to feature the ex-federal agent (after The Paris Vendetta). Two high-ranking Chinese government ministers, hard-liner Karl Tang and more liberal Ni Yong, both of whom are vying to be China's next premier, covet the lamp. Tang, in particular, has left a trail of bodies in his own quest for the lamp, which, unbeknownst to Malone and Vitt, contains the secret to how the country will surmount its biggest obstacle to future economic growth, its dependence on foreign oil. Berry layers his narrative with well-chosen, if sometimes overly detailed, doses of Chinese history. His action sequences, particularly a shootout inside the vast network of an underground tomb, often take too long to resolve, though the payoff in the end--a goose-pimple–raising showdown in a remote monastery--is worth the wait. (Nov.) (c)
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