Thus far, the adventures of CIA-agent Blackford Oakes have followed him chronologically through the Fifties and early Sixties: from Saving the Queen to See You Later Alligator, from the Space Race to the Berlin Wall to the Cuban Missile Crisis. But now, in one of the series' weaker installments, Buckley returns to 1954—for a fanciful version of secret events leading up to the international recognition of West Germany and the execution of Soviet monster Lavrenti Beria. When a US/UK commando mission to "liberate" Albania fails miserably, Oakes and his CIA mentor Rufus realize that there's a monstrous leak in Anglo-American Intelligence security. So Oakes sets out to track down the problem (is there a "mole" in the CIA or MI6?), following a few strange London clues—including the sighting of a British commando leader who supposedly died in that failed Albanian coup! Meanwhile, however, the reader learns the real source of the leak: Sir Alistair Fleetwood, young Nobel-winning scientist, is a secret agent for the USSR. He has been using his astonishing invention, an electronic telescope called the "Zirca," to read teletypes (from 400 feet away) through the window of the US Embassy's cable office. Furthermore, Sir Alistair is in the midst of providing KGB-kingpin Beria with a copy of the Zirca—so that Beria can eavesdrop on Party leader Malenkov, whom he intends to depose and/or assassinate!! Will Oakes learn the secret of the Zirca in time to prevent the Beria coup, which would heat up the Cold War? That's the primary (and skimpy) suspense here, delivered in a plot that's less clever than contrived and disjointed. Under-par, too, is Buckley's use of history this time: none of the real-life figures (Beria, Malenkov, the Dulles brothers, Ike) comes across with freshness or vigor; the British queen and PM are confusingly imaginary (cf. Saving the Queen). And, while lacking the seriousness of Stained Glass or The Story of Henri Tod, this latest outing for Blackford Oakes—as bland and faceless a hero as usual—also lacks the stylish wit and sly charm of Buckley at his brightest (Who's On First, See You Later Alligator). Nonetheless: reasonably lively, relatively literate spy-diversion—especially in contrast to the lumbering idiocies of Robert Ludlum (below).

Pub Date: March 1, 1986

ISBN: 1888952520

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Oct. 13, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15, 1986

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.


Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how...


A convicted killer’s list of five people he wants dead runs the gamut from the wife he’s already had murdered to franchise heroine Ali Reynolds.

Back in the day, women came from all over to consult Santa Clarita fertility specialist Dr. Edward Gilchrist. Many of them left his care happily pregnant, never dreaming that the father of the babies they carried was none other than the physician himself, who donated his own sperm rather than that of the handsome, athletic, disease-free men pictured in his scrapbook. When Alexandra Munsey’s son, Evan, is laid low by the kidney disease he’s inherited from his biological father and she returns to Gilchrist in search of the donor’s medical records, the roof begins to fall in on him. By the time it’s done falling, he’s serving a life sentence in Folsom Prison for commissioning the death of his wife, Dawn, the former nurse and sometime egg donor who’d turned on him. With nothing left to lose, Gilchrist tattoos himself with the initials of five people he blames for his fall: Dawn; Leo Manuel Aurelio, the hit man he’d hired to dispose of her; Kaitlyn Todd, the nurse/receptionist who took Dawn’s place; Alex Munsey, whose search for records upset his apple cart; and Ali Reynolds, the TV reporter who’d helped put Alex in touch with the dozen other women who formed the Progeny Project because their children looked just like hers. No matter that Ali’s been out of both California and the news business for years; Gilchrist and his enablers know that revenge can’t possibly be served too cold. Wonder how far down that list they’ll get before Ali, aided once more by Frigg, the methodical but loose-cannon AI first introduced in Duel to the Death (2018), turns on them?

Proficient but eminently predictable. Amid all the time shifts and embedded backstories, the most surprising feature is how little the boundary-challenged AI, who gets into the case more or less inadvertently, differs from your standard human sidekick with issues.

Pub Date: April 2, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5011-5101-9

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Gallery Books/Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Feb. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2019

Did you like this book?