A man wakes up in a Washington, D.C., public toilet with no memory of who he is and apparently suffering from a giant hangover. Amazingly within hours, Claude Lucas is piecing together the details of his life based on his ability to recall mathematical problems and his instinctive skills at self-defense.
Ken Follett sets his latest thriller "Code to Zero" (Dutton, $26.95, 356 pages) in 1958 at the height of the Cold War. The United States and Soviet Union are locked in a space race, and the Army is about to launch an Explorer rocket from Cape Canaveral, seeking to match the Soviet's success with Sputnik .
Through his clever detective work, Lucas discovers that before his memory loss he worked for the famed Wernher von Braun and played a major role in preparing for the launch. Now Lucas wants to know what robbed him of his memory and why two men are following him.
"Code to Zero" flashes back and forth between 1958 and 1941, when Lucas was a math major at Harvard. His best friends were Anthony Carroll, now with the CIA; the glamorous Elspeth Twomey, destined to become his wife and a key player on the Explorer project; and Billie Josephson, the woman he should have married.
Lucas manages to track down Billie, now a psychiatrist, to help him uncover more about his past. He learns about the wife he can't remember and apparently didn't love, the friends he once cherished, the woman he still feels a passion for and his years as a spy during World War II. He also learns a lot about betrayal.