THE PARTRIDGE KITE by Michael Nicholson


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Seven Days in May, British-style--except that, unfortunately, first-novelist Nicholson's real model is somewhat more antiquated; he obviously remembers his boyhood reading of John Buchan a bit too fondly, and this scenario of a right-wing coup planned by evil masterminds (even with parts of fingers missing, just like The 39 Steps) is strangely dated, despite its obvious references to Britain's current shaky state. A man named Sanderson has gone to the authorities and has confessed to being part of CORDON, a white supremacist conspiracy with thousands of members, some highly-placed secret leaders, and loads of assassins. Sanderson mentions a few names, then refuses to say another word. With so little to go on, what can the Prime Minister do? He sends, circuitously, for Tom McMullin, boozy and randy secret agent, who--in an incredibly dodoish manner--sets out to determine the validity of Sanderson's story by following up each of the clues. But isn't that just what CORDON wants? Yes, but ""we must continue to act. . . as if we're unaware we're responding to CORDON's plan--even though we're convinced we are: if you see what I mean?"" Huh? Anyway, McMullin stumbles around the country, confronting evil biggies, as Nicholson makes things ever more convoluted and less credible--with melodramatic dialogues, strange vessels carrying beryllium sulphate (intended for use in exterminating ghetto populations), and (more homage to Buchan) a scenic but nonsensical showdown in the Highlands. Like so many British journalists-turned-novelists, Nicholson can write a crisp page of action, but. . . ""'You make it sound,' Kellin said, 'like a dreadful political fantasy novel.' "" Bull's-eye.

Pub Date: Sept. 21st, 1978
Publisher: Holt, Rinehart & Winston