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Gardner, best known for his airheaded and highly successful pastiches of Superman James Bond, here completes the marvelous generational trilogy begun with The Secret Generations and The Secret Houses: the elegant, sedate, intricate, richly layered story of those inveterate British agents, the Railtons. A rumor soon after the 1964 funeral of Sir Caspar Railton, the patriarch of the clan, hinting that Caspar may have been a Soviet agent for the past 30 years, starts his nephew Donald (Naldo), of the Secret Information Service, on a quest to clear Caspar's name and burn the rumor's source. Leaving his long-suffering wife Barbara and his children and dropping out of sight with his American cousin, the CIA agent Arnold Farthing, Naldo soon finds himself inside the USSR for a period that stretches to five years--and culminates in a shattering though long-expected betrayal. By the time he returns, the SIS has long since given up on him as another Soviet agent, he has married the daughter of his uncle's archenemy (the legendary Russian agent Spatukin), and he has learned that Caspar had laid a posthumous trail of suspicion against himself back in the 30's as part of a deep plot to root out Soviet sympathizers in the SIS. As it becomes clear that Caspar's plan is to trap another Soviet agent too close to finger, Naldo works in alliance with his dead uncle to uncover the traitor within his own clan--which, as readers of the earlier Railton stories will know, has always been honeycombed with double and triple agents. Throughout, Gardner constantly links the saga of the Railtons to public history by dark hints about Cuba, Dallas, and Vietnam before Naldo finally unmasks the traitor at the price of decimating his family. A wonderfully absorbing and moving conclusion to the Railton trilogy. Given the evidence here, can't someone get an injunction against the return of James Bond?

Pub Date: April 19th, 1989
ISBN: 399-13397-6
Publisher: Putnam
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 15th, 1989


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