THE FINAL ACT by Christopher Hudson


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Familiar, moderately effective political melodrama--as a US Embassy aide fights a losing battle against Chile's repressive post-Allende government. . . and against his own hypocritical colleagues. This heroic (though unnecessarily foolish) fellow is diplomat James Dory, and his ordeal begins when dissident translator Laurence DeSoto seeks asylum at the US Embassy in Santiago but--against diplomatic rules--is allowed to be dragged off by Chilean police. Why did the Embassy staff let DeSoto be taken? Does it have something to do with the fact that DeSoto has been charged (ludicrously) with the murder of US businessman Douglas Parker, who was knifed outside the Embassy a few nights back? Why does the US Ambassador refuse to get involved--even after it appears that DeSoto has ""been disappeared"" by the secret police? Dory determines to learn the truth (""To hell with the cover-up""), talks to DeSoto's wife and colleagues, and leaks his suspicions to a New York Times-man. Meanwhile, the police are using torture to track down Parker's real killers--a motley band of freedom fighters. And when Dory is, unsurprisingly, fired and ordered home, he flees: he has a rendezvous with the freedom fighters, learning the Embassy secret (Parker was selling arms to Chile, violating US law but with tacit State Dept. approval); and then Dory searches for the missing DeSoto in a nightmarish madhouse/prison--but ultimately finds himself betrayed by the freedom fighters, abandoned by his own government, doomed. True, this final twist--the rebels are as ruthless as the oppressors--shows an appropriately grim cynicism. Elsewhere, however, Hudson's first novel suffers from Dory's unlikely naivetÉ, his kneejerk speechifying (""You conniving fuckers!. . . How many more innocent people are going to disappear for the sake of your love affair with the bastards who run this country?""), his occasional just-plain-dumb-ness. And the American cast of characters has a slightly too-British manner. Still, if you manage to believe in Dory's heedless heroism, this is a fast-moving, neatly constructed variation on a reliable, old scenario--a decent, modest thriller debut.

Pub Date: Jan. 23rd, 1980
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston