His code name is Cobra. Behind him lies a long, bloody trail of violence and assassination. Before him is a sinister rendezvous with the KGB. For the Russians have developed the ultimate weapon of subversion - a ferocious AIDS-like virus targeted at America's heartland.
But the CIA has a one-man antidote: Richard Camellion. Determined to stop his old nemesis, he will lead an international killing team on a break-neck, blood-soaked chase across Western Europe to deliver his own cure for commie terror: sudden, violent death!
Three months have passed since the end of the Death Merchant's last adventure, Mission Deadly Snow, in which Richard Camellion destroyed the Partners' huge cocaine processing factory in Colombia.
Now Camellion is working undercover in a Paris suburb - posing as an architect from Florida on vacation - hoping to find and kill the Cobra, who escaped from the "snow" factory before the big attack. The Death Merchant had refused outside help in tracking the Cobra (aka Adrian Mirocco) but he eventually ends up working with French intelligence. A raid on the apartment of a PLO terrorist (one of the Cobra's mistresses was also there) yields keys that fit lockers at RER Station. Three suitcases are found containing weapons, maps, various receipts, and photographs believed to be of the Cobra. The PLO terrorist and mistress are tortured, but they reveal no useful information.
The Death Merchant then gets word that a US General in the Air Force was murdered when his plane was shot down over Spangdahlem AFB in West Germany. A total of 32 people (in the plane and on the ground) were killed, but one person survived. That person overheard someone using Mirocco's nickname and something about being "safe in Istanbul". Convinced that the Cobra was behind the attack on the plane, the Death Merchant travels to Istanbul immediately. At an Istanbul safe house, an agent informs Camellion that the Cobra has been located "in a deserted han in the Beyoğlu district". In preparation for an attack, they actually drive past the building, but rather than storming it from the street, Camellion decides instead to walk through some underground rat-infested sewer pipes and come up into the cellar of the han. Sure enough, the Cobra and various Turkish revolutionaries are in the building and there is a massive shootout, complete with Camellion using CNB gas and thermit grenades. Somehow, the elusive Cobra escapes.
Camellion believes Mirocco has gone back to West Germany to get assistance from the KGB. So the Death Merchant's next move is to disguise himself as Mirocco and kidnap Alexandr Vensivik, a counsul general of the Soviet Union, at a performance of the Hamburg Symphony Orchestra. Camellion believes Vensivik will know where the Cobra is hiding. Vensivik does give the Death Merchant some information - after watching Camellion shoot his wife - but the reader is not privy to it.
The Cobra's previous plan to assassinate the Pope is put on hold because the Soviets want him to go to Sweden and take possession of a deadly virus (it gives victims symptoms similar to AIDS) and deliver it to a special KGB group in Wichita, Kansas. (Talking about the United States gives Rosenberger the opportunity to have Mirocco opine (as many of Rosenberger's characters do) that the US is "very stupid about its borders. They can't even keep out the trash from Mexico.") We learn that one of the KGB officials meeting with Mirocco told Vensivik, while tipsy, the details of this operation. This is likely the information that Vensivik told the Death Merchant. Mirocco also gets word that someone disguised as him pulled off a kidnapping. Mirocco realizes that only one person in the world could do this: "the mysterious Death Merchant"! He also wonders if the KGB is using him as bait to lure the Death Merchant to Sweden.
The handoff of the virus will be done in the ruins of Castle Vasa, off the shore near Härnösand on the east central coast of Sweden. A few days before the transfer, the Death Merchant and a small army of 14 others arrive at the castle. Rosenberger goes overboard describing the old castle as a "monstrous, silent sentinel enraged its privacy was being invaded". The structure is not attractive: "it looked as inviting as plague" and Camellion senses "a menacing perversion ... the Cosmic Lord of Death had many forms and shapes". In scouting out the many floors of the castle, they discover a secret room under the dungeon filled with Soviet weapons, as well as a stairway that leads down to the water. Camellion plants sound detectors and small packets of explosives all over the place and then it's time to sit and wait.
Once Camellion detects voices, he sneaks down to the lower level and tosses down some heavy stones to lure the Russians to investigate the first floor. When they do, the RDX packets are set off and the gun battle begins. Eventually, things come down to Camellion and Mirocco face-to-face. Camellion has the opportunity to "tweep" the Cobra, but he chooses not to. He wants the Cobra to know who is killing him, so they engage in hand-to-hand martial arts instead. "You're the reason birth control was invented", Camellion taunts him at one point. Of course, the Death Merchant wins the battle and blows the Cobra's head off. Success! (It is left unsaid whether some of the Russians in the underground chamber were able to retreat down the shaft and escape with the virus. Rosenberger drops the virus part of the storyline when the final battle begins and never returns to it.)
Right away, on page 9, we get some ammo porn to slow up the action:
The Death Merchant was using BAT cartridges, BAT being the acronym of Blitz-Action-Trauma. The BAT Safety bullet was a solid copper alloy, round-nosed projectile that did not contain any lead. The bullet was drilled all the way through with a stepped, two-diameter hole, thus leaving a cavity in the nose. This cavity was filled with a plastic-explosive plug that formed the round nose. A 9mm BAT bullet was deadly. Weighing 86 grains and having a muzzle velocity of 1,400 feet per second, the BAT slug could penetrate two car doors."The Cobra ... had only one religion. He was a fanatic who believed only in himself, only in Adrian Miroccoism!" [In an earlier book, Camellion says he follows only "Camellionism" and in a 1985 letter, author Joseph Rosenberger noted that his only religion was "Rosenbergerism".]
Camellion: "The only worthwhile pursuit that carries any reward is the avoidance of taxes."
"Working in the intelligence game, especially in the field, was always a carefully controlled nightmare, more often than not resembling a blind man's trying to walk on a tightrope that was never there in the first place."
Scherhorn, the eternal pessimist, was saying, "I don't care how well we've planned. There are so many unknown factors involved that it almost gives me diarrhea just to think about it".
"It's easy to be an angel when nobody ruffles your feathers. It is even easier to continue to avoid death when you've become a walking encyclopedia of dirty tricks and close-in combat tactics. But you had better have a very intimate knowledge of human nature and be familiar with how Evil thinks. Richard Camellion did have both."
"As far as Kröchen was concerned, the two Turks were as useless as pricks on priests."
"Adrian Mirocco was as puzzled as a man who has found Velveeta cheese in the gourmet section of a supermarket ..."
"Camellion, who would have dared to black-bag God, if the price for the job was right ..."
"If [the bald] Vensivik had been wearing a turtleneck sweater, he would have been able to pass for a giant tube of roll-on deodorant."
"As I see it, for us to even try to get to the castle can be equated with trying to take a bath in the middle of Yankee Stadium during the height of the baseball season."
"The Cobra knew he was doomed. Or, should be make a deal? Surrender? Do whales tap-dance?"
"And to think we're fighting men whose nation can't even manufacture a decent ballpoint pen!" Antoine Zegame muttered to no one in particular.