That is the situation in The Satan Bug, a 1962 thriller by Alistair MacLean, who wrote it under the pseudonym Ian Stuart.
To recover the Satan Bug before it can be used, the military calls on Cavell, a private detective in London with a shabby little office and a big attitude. He also has a mysterious past. Cavell, who had a spotty record when he was in the military, was once head of security for the bio lab, but was fired.
Why anyone would trust him is one of the mysteries – along with who stole the Satan Bug – in this not too mysterious mystery.
MacLean creates suspense and is top notch when it comes to action, but not nearly as good at devising a mystery. Readers will be ahead of him as the clues are not too hard to figure out. The mystery is almost secondary to the thrills he sets up as Cavell tracks down the lethal little bottle and the people who took it.
Alistair MacLean (1922-1987) is said to have published this book under a pen name to prove he could write a best seller without relying on his reputation as the man who wrote The Guns of Navarone.
(For more posts on books, head over to Todd Mason’s blog.)
(Also, check out my crime novel, Lyme Depot. Thanks.)