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Three and one half moon gifBallantine Books (Hardcover), ISBN 0345433246
Using the C.I.A. as the front organization for a worldwide conspiracy may not seem a stretch to some readers. But add to the conspiracy Carl Jung, Ezra Pound and Mary Magdalene and you get a twisting maze of fact and fancy that will leave a reader happily trapped. Kingdom Come delivers a real puzzler. Several times I thought I figured it out only to find myself proved wrong.  

Book: Jim Hougan, Kingdom ComeIt's not all smoke and mirrors as Jack Dunphy, the hero of Kingdom Come, discovers when he begins to unravel the conspiracy within an organization known for its conspiracies. Working for the C.I.A. in London "without official cover," Dunphy sets up commercial fronts at banking facilities in dubious parts of the world for "clients" with lots of money but no visible means of support. When someone ritualistically murders a professor under Dunphy's surveillance, Dunphy's C.I.A. superiors suddenly and unceremoniously order Dunphy back to headquarters where they give him a nothing job and strongly suggest he quit the agency. 

But Dunphy is a very stubborn man. After a close friend dies under questionable circumstances, Dunphy vows to uncover the secrets hidden behind the agency's wall of lies and murder, and the chase begins in earnest. Dunphy and his girlfriend Clementine play hide and seek with C.I.A. operatives and ruthless former clients on an action-packed thrill ride across Europe that draws them ever closer to the apocalyptic roots of the deadly conspiracy. 

Prior to Kingdom Come, Hougan authored nonfiction works about the intelligence community. Hougan uses this background well, spicing his narrative with telling details that ring all too true. One such tidbit was enough to make me question the ultimate destination of every email I ever sent or received.  

First-rate action and pacing make the book a real page-turner, but Hougan's characters prove less than three-dimensional. Dunphy is all action and no talk -- a trait valuable in a spy but far less desirable in a fictional hero. Dunphy's girlfriend Clementine displays all the depth of a Playboy centerfold. I guess she loves the big lug. Why else would she abandon her life in London and put herself in life-threatening situations all over Europe? A word of advice, Clem honey, there are other ways for girls to have fun.  

The politically correct will also quail at a particularly violent sequence involving Dunphy, one of his more nefarious clients and an electric nail gun. Definitely not for the faint at heart, but Hollywood will love it. 

With all its twists and turns, braced by action and exciting locales, Kingdom Come delivers a must read for thrill seekers. Conspiracy fans may consider Hougan's creation the mother of all conspiracies and revel in the kicker that it might just be true. This book leaves you wondering just how real it could be, even as it opens the door for a possible sequel. 

Susan Yonts-Shepard

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