June 24, 1996 12:00 PM

by Joseph Finder

Beach Book of the Week

PAN AM FLIGHT 103, THE WORLD TRADE Center, Oklahoma City, Wall Street. Wall Street? When mercenary terrorist Joseph Baumann is hired by a paranoid billionaire with a score to settle against American banks, the financial center’s central computer gets turned into a very big bomb waiting to go off. The only one standing between Baumann, known from Libya to Lebanon as the Prince of Darkness, and world economic collapse is FBI Agent Sarah Cahill. The race against the clock is as adroitly twisted as fuse cord, and Baumann’s deadly preparations are meticulously cataloged by Finder, a freelance journalist who writes about the espionage community. Need forge-proof U.S. passport papers? Try a firm called Portal’s. False ID? Amsterdam’s the place. Sophisticated explosives? Liège, Belgium. By the time the detonator ticks toward its final moments, readers will call The Zero Hour pure dynamite. (Morrow, $25)

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