Books: Murder on the Cocaine Express

THE TRANSFER by Thomas Palmer; Ticknor& Fields; 402 pages; $14.95

Thrillers may borrow some tricks from detective stories and some atmosphere from spy fiction, but they are essentially different from both. Such works can trace their lineage directly back through the medieval romances to the classical epic and its archetypal plot: a hero risks his life trying to master overwhelming odds. Modern incarnations of this nonpareil (out of, say, Raymond Chandler, Graham Greene or Robert Stone) have become increasingly antiheroic, their designs questionable and their morality ambiguous. But the trials they must endure,...

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