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SOME FAMILIAR SOD

Several books ago, a well known American critic said of the novels by British author Jack Higgins: "Readers get exactly what they hope for from thrillers written by this prolific spellbinder whose real name is Henry Patterson."

And that's what his fans get once again from Higgins' newest nail-biter, "The White House Connection": more swashbuckling action, more flamboyant bravery, more intense intrigue.

The milieu is the contemporary effort to process a lasting peace in Northern Ireland, where negotiators continue unsuccessfully to produce an accord between its Catholic and Protestant citizenries.

Once again, Higgins calls upon his favorite fictional covert warrior -- ex-IRA terrorist/enforcer Sean Dillon, now working for the British Secret Intelligence Service. Dillon's mission: find and stop mysterious killings of Sons of Erin leaders whose deaths would imperil peace efforts and endanger the governments of England and Ireland.

Though multilayered, "The White House Connection" is largely formulaic. But that won't dampen its reception by Higgins loyalists and many book critics. It's the author's 29th action thriller, a selection of the Book-of-the-Month Club and a welcome newcomer to the Higgins canon. The author, 70, lives on Jersey in the Channel Islands.

After a few minor books -- most of them potboilers -- Higgins at last found enthusiastic critical and commercial success in 1975 with his breakthrough novel, the mega best seller "The Eagle Has Landed."
THE WHITE HOUSE CONNECTION
By Jack Higgins
Putnam
323 pages, $25.95

More thrills, briefly
In a Dry Season, by Peter Robinson; Avon Twilight, 422 pages, $24 -- Aficionados of the British literary detective story will welcome this 10th leisurely novel in Robinson's standout police procedural series featuring Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks. His career languishing, Banks is sent to remotest Yorkshire on a seemingly dead-end case: a woman's body has been discovered in a dried-up reservoir built on the site of a deserted bucolic village. Whodunit connoisseurs will revel in this one.

Cuba, by Stephen Coonts; St. Martin's, 390 pages, $24.95 -- This suspense novel marks the return to best-seller country of Coonts and his popular character in military-action thrillers: Rear Admiral Jake Grafton. As Fidel Castro lies dying in Havana, a freighter carrying chemical and biological warheads to the United States from its Cuban base in Guantanamo Bay is hijacked. While searching for the warheads, Grafton, on an aircraft carrier off the coast of Cuba, is drawn into a growing Cuban crisis about to be triggered by the impending death of the Communist island's dictator.

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