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Pandora's Clock
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A motley assemblage of travelers stranded‘on plane, train or ship‘by natural forces or man-made threat often provides fodder for gripping novels or movies. Nance (Blind Trust), well aware of this formula's potential, has concocted a doozy of a plot for his latest thriller. Shortly after Quantum Airlines Flight 66 departs Frankfurt, Germany, for New York, one of the passengers succumbs to an apparent heart attack. It may be, however, that Professor Ernest Helms was exposed to a doomsday virus just before boarding his flight; if so, more than 200 passengers and crew members could be dead within a matter of hours. Word of this imminent disaster leaks to governments and media organizations around the world, of course, and the jumbo jet is refused landing clearance everywhere. And when the CIA gets involved, its ambitious director schemes to have the plane destroyed by an infamous terrorist group. As the genre goes, so far, so good. But the suspense seldom mounts here, hindered by a surfeit of hyperbole (``What Erickson must be feeling is unfathomable!''), clunky writing and clichés. Though the author manages a few pulse-pounding sequences, his cardboard characters (most of the passengers are little more than props) and lame repartee keep this thriller on mundane terra firma. Still, Nance leaves the runway clear for a sequel, and fans hooked by Flight 66's dilemma can await the takeoff of #67. First serial to D magazine; major ad/promo; author tour. One-day (Sat.) giveaway at ABA. (Sept.)

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