"The Power" starts out as a real chiller-thriller, but after a few chapters, it begins to lose its thin veneer of credibility.

The CIA and its Soviet counterpart are involved in research on the supernatural, trying to harness the forces of good and evil for their arsenal of weapons.Intelligence reports indicate that the Russians are on the verge of a breakthrough and that Spectrum, code name for their project, eventually will enable them to control the thoughts of world leaders or launch missiles without touching a button.

Jack Hammond, a member of America's top-secret paranormal unit, is assigned to see what's happening. At an international conference in Monte Carlo, he meets and is seduced by Darya Timoshek, a satanic follower and a key force behind Spectrum. She offers information about the program in exchange for asylum.

Hammond agrees and turns Darya over to the CIA, which gives her access to its research on the occult. Darya supplies some Russian data, most of it questionable, and then skips out.

Hammond follows her to Moscow, where his search for the truth is complicated when he meets Valentina Leonov, a faith healer who will change his life. An official, who has been spying for the West, approaches Hammond with a proposition: Persuade Valentina to treat ailing Soviet leader Yuri Andropov and Hammond will be told everything about Spectrum.

In the final scenes, Hammond is wounded and Darya disappears forever.

"The Power" has its moments, but the pace is slowed by detailed explanations of such terms as "psychokinetic" and "psychobiological."

James Mills' previous novels include "The Panic in Needle Park" and "The Report to the Commissioner."