Buckley's second novel (after The White House Mess, 1986) finds him edging into WFBjr's territory of international...



Buckley's second novel (after The White House Mess, 1986) finds him edging into WFBjr's territory of international melodrama, and adding a bloody overlay of Richard Condon burlesque. The mayhem starts quickly. Zillionaire conglomerate tycoon Charley Becker, whose bottomless funds have the magic powers of Aladdin's lamp, has lost most of his family to alcoholism. When his overly protected granddaughter, a budding actress allergic to drugs, dies of a more or less forced overdose of cocaine in an East Village apartment, Charley vows revenge on the whole coke industry. In CIA lingo ""wet work"" means assassination, or hands-on murder, and Charley thinks death much too small a price for dealers and cartel operators to pay after robbing him of his last blood relative. And here comes the Condon, as Charley and his three main hit-men--laughably named McNamara, Bundy, and Rostow--start blowing away Manhattan drug-folk, then Miami dealers, and finally start working their way up the Amazon in search of the great factories turning out their killer tonnages. Each death they accomplish has its riotous aspect: a Catholic Puerto Rican dealer's head is blown off in front of church (although Charley has allowed him to phone in a long final confession to a surprised priest); a big Miami operator has his squid poisoned, then is threatened with an infusion of HIV positive blood, and so on. Charley's hit-men, who deal death with professional casualness while addicted to reading House & Garden and Architectural Digest, are variations on the Jack Nicholson/Charlie Partanna loveable-killer mold. Much hearty bodily injury gives big laughs for fans of black comedy. Others may find an action-packed vacuum.

Pub Date: Feb. 12, 1990


Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 1990