Synopsis: Matt is temporarily on loan to another U.S. super-secret agency, impersonating a rich Texas oilman, supposedly to locate a cache of armaments intended for a Mexican general plotting to overthrow the Mexican government. However, Mac has an agenda of his own, assigning Eric to identify, locate, and terminate "Senor Sabado," or "Mr. Saturday." As usual, Mac knows when two assignments will overlap, and Matt, overcoming his wounds, triumphs once again.

The Players:
  • Horace H. "Buffalo Bill" Cody, the Texas millionaire who Eric is pretending to be. A tough old man, Cody manages to survive a bullet in the back and emerges at the end of the book happily married to his child bride.
  • Gloria Henrietta Pierce, daughter of William Pierce, who marries her "Uncle Buffy" Cody to help the authorities prove he was responsible for the death of her father. When it turns out he wasn't responsible, she stays married to him. She spends most of the book in the custody of Ramon Solana-Ruiz.
  • Ramon Solana-Ruiz, who you may remember from a couple of previous novels, is back as the leader of a group of Mexican government agents keeping track of the revolutionary general, Mondragon.
  • General Mondragon, who hopes to become president of Mexico by force, is the one responsible for Gloria's father's death, as well as the death of the woman who wanted to be Gloria's step-mother.
  • Millie Charles, the wanna-be step-mother. She is the one who drove Will Pierce to do the things he did to get the whole novel started--a failed drug smuggling attempt, and a failed arms smuggling attempt.
  • Will Pierce, partner of Cody, who lost all his money because of Millie. He tried some unlawful ways to get more money, and was chopped up with machetes wielded by Mondragon's men, as was Millie, his lady-friend.
  • Joanna Beckman, daughter of Millie Charles. She and her brother, Mason Charles, have been led to believe that Cody was responsible for their mother's death. Unlike her brother, Joanna has some doubts, and helps Helm to find out the truth. Mason just shoots Eric when he wasn't looking, but Matt forgives him.
  • Antonia Cisneros, Mexican spitfire, who also is after Cody, thinking he was responsible for her boyfriend's death. However, she had seen "Cody" when he visited her boyfriend and knew that neither the real Cody nor the impersonator, Matt Helm, was the Cody she was looking for. Her description leads Eric to the conclusion that Will Pierce had been doing his nefarious deeds under the name Horace Cody, casting suspicion on his innocent partner.
  • Warren Somerset, head of that other U.S. super-secret agency. It turns out that he was the money behind the failed armaments deal, and to save his butt from U.S. government investigators, he was eliminating anyone with any connection to the plot. He was Mr. Saturday, the "Senor Sabado" who Eric was looking for.

Scorecard:
Amorous conquests: Gloria Cody, nee Pierce. She practically forces him to rape her on a hillside where they were camped out for the night after escaping from Mondragon's troops. She calls him "darling," but after that one fling in the boonies, she doesn't seem to like him much. Jo Beckman, who nurses Matt back to health after he is shot by her brother, has an interlude on the sofa with him. She also calls him "darling," and is around to comfort him when the novel ends.

Dead: Bodies all over the place (Will Pierce, Millie Charles, and five others, murdered by Mondragon's troops; Mondragon and a bunch of his troops, killed by Antonia, who also killed four men employed by her boyfriend and one of Somerset's men; Antonia, killed by Somerset's men; two of Somerset's men were killed by Cody during his escape from them; and probably some more of Somerset's men died when Ramon's agents moved in on Somerset's hideout near the end of the book. Helm accounted for his share: at least four of Somerset's men including Rutherford, who already had four or five bullets in him administered by Jo Beckman; a couple of Mondragon's men and women; and Somerset himself, shooting him three times in the face.)

Injuries to Matt Helm: He got a furrow in his skull from a bullet fired by Mason Charles, which gave him a terrible headache and he spent a day or two in bed recuperating; later he was shot in the back by Rutherford with a high-powered rifle, but managed to overcome that injury long enough to kill both Rutherford and Somerset. Somerset also used a butane cigarette lighter to burn the sole of Eric's right foot in a mock attempt at torture, but by using a rifle as a cane, Helm still manages to limp onward to conclude his mission.

Quote: Near the end of the book, Helm discovers that a lady he was somewhat fond of has been captured by the bad guys. He and his companion at the time, Antonia, discuss the matter:
     She was studying my face intently. "We go help your medical lady?"
     I drew a long breath. I said, "We don't perform heroic rescues of irrelevant females around here, small fry. She got herself into trouble; she can get herself out. That goes for you, too, as I told you. Nobody invited either of you babes to this picnic; you're both just excess baggage as far as I'm concerned. Now let's see about the gringo under the tree...What the hell are you grinning about?"
     "Good man," Antonia said.
     It was clear that she'd expected me to chicken out; she'd thought I'd drop everything and rush off breathlessly to get the nasty handcuffs off my beloved.
     Antonia said, "We go kill gringo now?"

Conclusion: Actually, this was one of the better Helm novels. It is a shame that Antonia Cisneros was killed; she and Eric worked together beautifully, and she could have been a valued partner in future missions. She would have made sure that Helm's sentimentality didn't get him into trouble; she didn't seem to have a sentimental bone in her body. But, sadly, she is gone, and Eric will once again have to cope with gun-fearing, anti-violent women in . . .
         

Matt Helm ™ is the property of Donald Hamilton.
and is a Trademark of Integute AB
This independent reference to, and appreciation of, the Matt Helm book series
is copyright 1998-2012 - Don Winans
Originally posted in June 1998 - Last Modified 22 July 2000
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