The premise is intriguing--was Stalin's 1953 death a CIA murder plot?--but the execution is mediocre: first-novelist Kruse...



The premise is intriguing--was Stalin's 1953 death a CIA murder plot?--but the execution is mediocre: first-novelist Kruse spins out an inflated, convoluted plot heaving with spy/romance clichÉs and kinky touches. In 1953 London, the CIA's ""Mr. Wiz"" David Kelland--""handsome in a Cary Grantish kind of way""--learns that a homosexual British double-agent has tipped off Russia to the CIA's biggest secret: there's a CIA mole in a key Kremlin position! So, before Stalin uses this info to smoke out the mole (""Red Omega""), something must be done: Stalin must be killed. Meanwhile, over in Spain, exiled Spanish Civil War hero Cabeza--who, though a communist, hates Russia for torturing and imprisoning him--smuggles himself back into Spain, is captured by the France regime, and is condemned to death. So, as super-hero Cabeza is attempting an escape, Kelland rescues him and in Tangier offers him the Stalin assassination mission. And Cabeza's accomplice is to be young multilingual agent Gall Lessing. (It was she who trapped that British double-agent . . . who burned her nipples with a cigarette before he himself was killed and bricked up in a cellar.) So, though Gall must prove her CIA loyalty by shooting Cabeza in the arm, love is near-instantaneous (with ""her breasts warm and mobile against him"" as he lies bleeding); and once Cabeza is patched up, he enters Russia posing as a Spanish union secretary, Gall posing as his wife. Problems arise for the mission, however: an attempt to put a bomb in Stalin's toilet pipe fails, so they must instead poison Uncle Joe's brandy. Furthermore, lion-like Cabeza is shot yet again, rescued by Gall, and taken for medical treatment to his ex-wife. And, while Stalin dies of a ""stroke,"" Machiavellian agent Kelland tries to kill Gail and Cabeza at a snowy train station . . . as double-agent identities are revealed and the gore escalates. The characterizations are more James Bond than John le CarrÉ; the central tension never builds in the Day of the Jackal manner; and Stalin himself shows up for only about ten pages. So: disappointing spy nonsense--without the craft to back up its fanciful, perhaps sale-able, fact/fiction gimmick.

Pub Date: Oct. 1, 1981


Page Count: -

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1, 1981