cover image Mongoose, R.I.P.

Mongoose, R.I.P.

William F. Buckley, JR.. Random House (NY), $17.95 (322pp) ISBN 978-0-394-55931-5

Arguably, this is the best of the Blackford Oakes series. Since we first met him at a callow 26, in Saving the Queen, Oakes has maturedhe's become more worn around the edges, less abrasive and, as a result, more likable. It is now 1963; Castro and Khrushchev are bickering. With the help of the CIA (Operation Mongoose), President Kennedy is involved in three separate plots to assassinate Castro. The first twopresenting Castro with a toxic wetsuit and supplying his mistress with poison pills (both were actually attempted)fail. The third, providing a disillusioned Castro protege with a rifle (also a real CIA plan) looks the most promising. Oakes is sent to Cuba to help coordinate the uprising that will inevitably follow. Suddenly the CIA discovers that Castro is about to launch a medium-range missile (left from the Cuban missile crisis) at Dallas, Tex., and the president. It's up to Oakes to prevent an escalation of the Cold War. Buckley has abandoned straightforward narration for a series of rapid-fire, cinematic scenes that are sometimes confusing as they jump from Washington, D.C., to Moscow to Havana. On the plus side, this high-flying thriller is grounded in reality, thanks to Dorothy McCartney, research editor of the National Review, whose help Buckley acknowledges. Readers will enjoy the sheer exuberance of this all too plausible caper. Major ad/promo; Troll Book Club Main selection. (January 6)