THE STORY OF HENRI TOD by William F. Buckley Jr.


A Blackford Oakes Novel
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CIA super-agent Blackford Oakes spies around Berlin, just before the Wall goes up--in the most somber, least witty or inventive of Buckley's Cold War thrillers thus far. "Find out what Khrushchev actually plans to do." That's Blackford's latest mission, as East Germany's Walter Ulbricht keeps pressuring Moscow for help in stopping the population flow from East to West Berlin. So Blackford makes contact with legendary Henri Tod, the young leader of a private anti-Communist spy network in Germany: he's charismatic, daring, a German-Jewish survivor of the Holocaust (who blames himself for the death-camp demise of his beloved sister Clementa). And Tod seems to know more than anyone else about the possibility of East German/Soviet action in Berlin--especially when, after being wounded during a murder-mission to East Berlin, he just happens to wind up in the tender care of Waiter Ulbricht's feckless, charming, rebellious nephew! Soon, then, back in West Berlin, Tod is getting the inside dope on the forthcoming Wall plan. Unfortunately, however, the JFK White House is unwilling to use this data as the basis for firm Berlin counter-measures. (Buckley is at his most grindingly ideological here, even reprinting a National Review editorial.) Thus, finally, Tod and his small underground group are forced to go it alone against the Wall construction--in a near-kamikaze tank operation. And though Tod survives this futile raid (the Wall goes up as planned, of course), he is doomed nonetheless--when the East Germans come up with a scheme to trap him into a reunion with his long-lost sister: she isn't dead, as it happens, but survived the war. . . and is now the much-brainwashed wife of a KGB officer! Buckley's usual flair for comic political history is in sadly short supply this time; the chief attempt at humor comes in interior monologues for JFK (flaky, sarcastic)--which fall flat. And, with the excessively noble Henri Tod at center-stage most of the way through, Blackford is barely a presence here at all (though clearly chagrined by Washington's lack of anti-Communist guts). Over-contrived, insufficiently charming, and blandly didactic: the weakest of the Oakes adventures--but short and fast enough to please the sizable following.
Pub Date: Jan. 27th, 1983
ISBN: 1581824785
Page count: 260pp
Publisher: Doubleday
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1983


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