In the best Blackford Oakes novel yet (Tucker's Last Stand, 1991, etc.), the master of the double bind builds a plot that places the CIA chief of covert ops squarely between the Maelstrom and the Wandering Rocks. Buckley dips into Black's college days, his marriage to Sally following her widowhood, with glances into the days with Kennedy and Johnson. Now, in 1995, as covert ops honcho, he's called before the Senate to defend his affair with "Cyclops"--and refuses, risking jail instead. While President Clinton schemes to save covert ops from the Senate, we are told that sometime during the Reagan Administration--about 1985--before Gorbachev led the USSR into dissolution, Black was contacted by his old Russian buddy and adversary, Cyclops (now 85), and given knowledge that could be entrusted to Black alone: only two people, Cyclops and Black, could know that a tiny knot of very young, hotblooded, idealistic Russian dissidents, modeling themselves on the original 19-century Narodniki whose fiery-minded assassinations inspired Lenin's boldest moves, have taken it upon themselves to assassinate Gorbachev. Buckley has huge fun drawing these youths, their backgrounds, education, and military service (as did Dostoyevsky in drawing his Narodniki in The Devils) and his mastery of the Russian terrain and mentality takes on tremendously entertaining firmness. Black goes to Reagan for a one-on-one confab that must not go out of the Oval Office. Should he turn his buddy Cyclops and the Narodniki over to the KGB? Ronnie stalls, It's not our business. Then he meets Gorbachev at Reykjavik, likes him, and tells Black the Narodniki must go. Heavy-hearted Black takes off for Moscow as the assassins fail at a first attempt and mount a second. His mission: death to the Narodniki.... Top-drawer storytelling, as Blackford scrabbles for his soul.