This is a gripping debut thriller by journalist David Shirreff. The Soviet empire is crumbling - a plight made worse by its efforts to match President Ronald Reagan's multi-billion-dollar Star Wars programme. What better - and cheaper - response can there be than to smuggle a compact nuclear warhead into the heart of every metropolis in the Western alliance? Moscow's top-secret mission is run by a bunch of patriotic, but fallible, former cosmonauts. Only by chance do Western agents get wind of it, with a predictably flat-footed response. And only one man, William Pike, publisher of a magazine on specialist weaponry, sees the full magnitude of the threat posed by Project Vulkan. A chase ensues across various continents to locate and neutralise the hidden weapons before millions of lives are lost. Dark forces are at work - darker than the openly friendly regime of Mikhail Gorbachev. The technology has a potential far more sinister than the deterrent it was designed to be - if it falls into the wrong hands. This novel is no mere fantasy. For several decades, Nordic countries have experienced unexplained activity in their home waters. Here is a plausible scenario for what lay behind it: not just Soviet submarines in trouble, but a device to terrorise the entire Western world by stealth. If that technology could create panic in the dying days of the Cold War, how much more could it do so today, if it fell into the hands of a terrorist group. As William Pike speculates: "If they can fly planes into the twin towers they can certainly turn other forms of transport into lethal weapons." von Shirreff, David
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