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IN BRIEF

Fiction

August 22, 1993|DICK RORABACK

WITHOUT REMORSE by Tom Clancy (G. P. Putnam's Sons: $24.95; 608 pp.) No fancy phrase-making for Tom Clancy. No ruffles or flourishes. Just straight-ahead storytelling by one of the best in the business. Starting slowly and building to flank speed, "Without Remorse" follows John Kelly from the mean streets of Baltimore to the meaner trails of North Vietnam and back. Kelly, a tough, resourceful vet who lives on his own island in Chesapeake Bay, stalks Henry Tucker, an equally tough and resourceful drug dealer who imports Asian cocaine inside the cadavers of American servicemen. But it is Tucker's penchant for drugging, raping, torturing and killing the young ladies he employs as runners that gets Kelly's undivided attention.

At the same time, the CIA has asked Kelly to lead a meticulously mounted mission to rescue 20 key officers from a prison compound south of Hanoi. No slapdash Rambo operation this: Enormous logistical support is demanded--warships, aircraft, Marines--all kept absolutely secret, even from the White House. Further distancing Clancy from Stallone, the mission fails!

Such few flaws as are found in "Without Remorse" are the boy-girl scenes, a little awkward, a little stilted. The author is a lot more comfortable in a machine shop, fitting a silencer to a hybrid .45. For to call Clancy a Hawk is to say anchovies are a little salty. He remains America's No. 1 P.I. Not private investigator; politically incorrect. Go get 'em, Tom.

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