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Mongoose, R.I.P. (The Blackford Oakes thrillers) Hardcover – November 12, 1987
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From Publishers Weekly
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.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc.
From Library Journal
Blackford Oakes plays a relatively quiescent part in this retelling of the Kennedy assassination, which links Oswald to the Castro regime. Learning that the Soviets have secretly left behind a single missile after the U.S. challenge, Castro masterminds a scenario that will see Kennedy dead whether by bullet or ballistic missile. Vital to the story's plot are various documented attempts on Castro's life, one Oakes's assignment, and the love affair between Blacky and Sally Partridge. With a deft ear for the Cuban phrase and respect for technical detail, Buckley has again loosed the fox among the pigeons with satisfying results. Troll Book Club main selection. Barbara Conaty, Library of Congress
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
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Bill Buckley’s “Mongoose RIP” is ambitious but bogged down by too many characters. It also lags because the main character – CIA operative Blackford Oakes – comes out of plot too often. By contrast, I read John Gardner’s James Bond thriller “Nobody Lives Forever” just prior to Buckley’s book (by the way they were both published around the same time – 1986-87). Gardner’s book is a can’t-put-it-down page turner precisely because James Bond is in every scene. No other character is center stage. But if “Mongoose” wasn’t subtitled “A Blackford Oakes Novel” and you didn’t read to the last chapter it might be difficult to say who the main character is.
Buckley’s writing is occasionally clunky and off target. One sentence discussing the life of Oakes’ love interest Sally Partridge uses the phrase “the Partridge family” and I half-expected Shirley Jones and David Cassidy to join the long list of characters. Fidel Castro speaking like a chemical engineer about liquid oxygen and other things needed to launch a nuclear missile is laughingly out of place. Castro is a lawyer who hated school and loves sports. It’s preposterous to believe he’d get down in the weeds in talking chemistry.
Still, “Mongoose RIP” is worth reading. Buckley interestingly blends fact and fiction for people who like that sort of thing and for people who don’t he writes a useful appendix from Church Committee hearings and other sources that mark the dividing lines in his story. A weighty morality play emerges near book’s end which rewards us for wading through the sea of characters. The story moves from full-house casting and American flag waving to naked humanity, making it a mental and spiritual journey worth taking.