April 01, 1991 12:00 PM

by Jack Higgins

In this streamlined but silly sequel to Higgins’s popular 1975 World War II thriller, The Eagle Has Landed, it turns out that Nazi assassin Kurt Steiner did not die after all in his daring raid to kill Churchill in 1943. Steiner has been captured and held for a time in the Tower of London. For reasons that are entirely implausible. SS chief Heinrich Himmler decides Steiner must be rescued, and IRA mercenary Liam Devlin is put on the case. (This colorful Irishman also appeared in The Eagle Has Landed, as well as another Higgins novel of espionage. Touch the Devil.) The British, specifically Brig. Dougal Munro—a character in Higgins’s Cold Harbour—are waiting for him.

As this covert operation—and the festival of self-referential fiction—unfolds, everyone plots and counterplots like mad, but Higgins withholds just enough to keep you flipping pages. He spins the tale out in an economical fashion, one not freighted with either style or cumbersome details.

Higgins (a pseudonym for Harry Patterson) does get sloppy. At one point, for instance, the narrator complains that he’s out of whiskey. Four pages later he pours himself a hefty Bushmills.

Mostly, though, this Eagle flaps along determinedly, even bringing Hitler onto the scene at the end. It was clearly supposed to be a slam-bang finish but ends up as only a quiet slam and a little bang. (Simon and Schuster. $21.95)

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