AUTUMN TIGER by Bob Langley


Email this review


Langley's best suspenser, again showing his fine hand at exotic description, as he did in his Argentine and Antarctic locales in Falklands Gambit (1985) and his elemental Alpine nail-biter, Traverse of the Gods (1980). This one is set in Berlin's last clays and in Louisiana Cajun swamp country in 1945, and in today's Paris. J.A. Tully, director of Section III (Science and Technology) of the CIA, has just entered his last week of work before mandatory retirement at 60, when he's given a last, quite dangerous assignment. In Section III Tully is a desk-bound, mild-mannered Walter Mitty, a faceless cross between a wimp and a dishrag. But once, nearly 40 years ago, he'd been handed one of the hardest OSS assignments of WW II, and proved himself a raging tiger despite his nowhereman exterior. Now, in autumn, the tiger is self-defanged and declawed. The last assignment is to go to Paris to accept the surrender of the mysterious Stapius, defecting head of the most important section of East German Intelligence. Stapius has requested Tully by name as the one to receive him into the West, and as a token, Stapius has sent Tully an old cigarette lighter with Tully's name engraved on it. The lighter puts Tully into orbit, and he recalls his months as a spy living in Berlin during the final months of bombing, then as a fake German soldier infiltrated into a Stateside POW camp for German soldiers in Louisiana. As a mock prisoner, be had the job of warming up one Colonel Graebner, a prisoner who held the secret of the meaning of SSG 300--Hitler's secret weapon. In the section of the novel going back to his days as a prisoner, Tully fights off the psychotic Nazi pansy who rules the camp, fights a saber duel, joins in an escape plot, all to get on the good side of Graebner. Meanwhile, he's allowed out of the prison camp daily to practice the piano at the nearby home of a beautiful widow, all for a concert he's supposed to give. He and the widow fall in love, and when Graebner makes his final breakout through swamp country, he takes the widow along as a hostage. Eventually, she's killed in a bazooka blast--or is she?--while Tully worms the secret of SSG 300 from Graebner. Well-knit, with surprisingly original twists, although the tiger-into-worm satire takes second place to the suspense.

Pub Date: July 7th, 1986
Publisher: Walker