Synopsis: Mac decides to go into the field himself in this one, and while away from his post, our old nemesis, Bennett, makes his move on Mac's agency. Eric's job is to lure Bennett away from Washington and swat him like a pest (which he is). So Helm goes to Sweden to visit his distant relatives (who have their own deadly problems), and eventually accomplishes his mission, in a face-to-face gunfight with Bennett. Mac's job is to get back some people who have vanished (hence the title), one of whom is a good friend of Mac's. Seems that Costa Verde ex-president Rael's followers have kidnaped some folks to use as leverage to get the U.S. Government to force current president Ricardo Jimenez out of office. Surprisingly, in this novel, it is Mac who winds up in the hospital at the end.

The Players:
  • Astrid M. Watrous--actually, a Soviet agent posing as Astrid Watrous. The real Astrid is being held hostage behind the Iron Curtain. She has devious plans to eliminate a Swedish military base using a Swedish pro-peace protest group.
  • Karin Segerby, Swedish agent who has infiltrated the protest group, and who knows that Astrid was responsible for Karin's husband's death. She has devious revenge motives pushing her along.
  • Bennett, the aspiring spy-master, is back, but this time does not survive.
  • Olaf Stjernhjelm, a distant cousin of Matt's, and a Swedish secret agent, also infiltrates the peace protest group. He doesn't endear himself to Matt, especially after torturing Eric at some length in order to impress his cohorts with his loyalty.
  • Valdemar Konowski, or Paul Haraldsen, code-named Joel. He was one of Mac's men who decided to side with Bennett.
  • Doug Barnett, code-named Abraham, and his daughter, Amy, are back. Doug was chosen by Mac to hold down his chair while he was out in the field.

When Bennett's assassins come after him, Eric does a little hunting of his own:
     "Suspecting nothing, he was taken completely by surprise when, as he passed the end of the fence, I rose up and threw the lock on him from behind. He was too big for me to mess with. The other, smaller one I might have tried to take alive; not this husky character. I gave it maximum effort instantly, therefore, and felt certain important items break in certain important places. I held him like that until there were no more kicks or quivers or spasmodic tremors left in him; and even a little longer. Too many good men have died because they were too sensitive, spelled queasy, to make absolutely certain."

Scorecard:
Amorous conquests: The Soviet agent, Astrid; and Karin Segerby, both of whom die before book's end. Astrid calls him "darling"; Karin doesn't.

Dead: Fourteen or thereabouts (Astrid and seven of her henchmen, killed by defective incendiary grenades courtesy of Karin Segerby; Karin Segerby, killed by a stray bullet from Bennett's gun; possibly two of Bennett's men, killed by Joel, but since he had sided with Bennett, it seems unlikely; Karl and Greta, two of Astrid's troops, shot and killed by Karin. Matt's tally includes Joel, shot numerous times to make sure; James Harley, one of Bennett's men; and Mr. Bennett himself.)

Injuries to Matt Helm: Severe burns suffered during a torture session with Olaf, but later Olaf apologized and provided some salve for the burns.

Conclusion: Using a network of old, and sometimes infirm, agents, Mac succeeds in rescuing the "vanished" people, although he is shot and wounded in the effort. U.S. relations with Costa Verde remain stable. Matt makes up for not shooting Bennett a few novels back when he had the chance, saving his agency from another takeover attempt, but straining U.S./Swedish relations a bit. His ancient relatives in Sweden might not welcome his return to the old country with quite as much enthusiasm next time. They don't have to worry, though, since his new assignment takes him back to Florida and the Caribbean 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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