Despite an intricate and complex plot seasoned with lots of interesting world-building, Grimwood's latest is curiously wooden, peopled with a mere handful of fascinating characters instead of his usual full complement.

A mysterious man, dubbed Prisoner Zero, tries to assassinate the U.S. president during the first tour of Morocco since Harry Truman's presidency. The West is puzzled, since the current president is intelligent, erudite and well-liked. Who is Prisoner Zero and why did he think he could kill President Newman with an antique rifle from half a mile away? The quest for the truth about Prisoner Zero is at the heart of this complicated novel. He could be anyone, from a professional assassin to a lone gunman with a grudge.

Or he could possess the knowledge of a star drive that could change the course of human history. It falls to a psychiatrist to figure out what's going on in his head. That plot is interspersed with scenes of a reincarnated Forbidden City, a Marrakech slum and the denizens thereof. (BANTAM SPECTRA, Sep., 384 pp., $12.00)
Reviewed by: 
Natalie A. Luhrs