Stained Glass (Blackford Oakes #2), William F. Buckley, Jr. New York: MysteriousPress.com/Open Road Media, 2015 (first published in 1978).
Summary: When a charismatic German who fought against the Nazis in the resistance in Norway campaigns to become Chancellor on a platform to reunite Germany, Soviets and Americans come together to block this, with Blackford Oakes at the center, restoring a family chapel of the candidate.
Count Axel Wintergren participated in the Nazi invasion of Poland, disappearing and turning over Nazi invasion plans to the Poles. For the remainder of the war, he fought with the resistance in Norway, returning to his village and family enclosure after the war. Elections for the Chancellorship in West Germany are coming with Konrad Adenauer the leading candidate. That is until Wintergren. Over the months, he has slowly built a following throughout the country, then announced his candidacy. The country is electrified with this youthful face with a radical idea that captures their hearts: reunite Germany. Outside of Germany no one likes this idea. Not the Soviets whose sphere of influence includes East Germany. Not the Americans who recognize the possibility that World War III could break out with NATO dangerously unprepared and the only deterrent being America’s nuclear arsenal.
Enter Blackford Oakes, whose engineering skills qualify him to restore the St. Anselm chapel on Wintergren’s estate, allowing him to get close to Wintergren, to pass along intelligence, to dissuade…and more? There are two surprises for the Americans. One is that Oakes cover is blown. Chief KBG agent for Europe Boris Bolgin know who he’s working on. The other is that the Soviets have their own agent, Erika Chadinoff, working as Wintergren’s translator. The bug in Oakes’ room at the chateau traces back to her room.
All of this brings the Americans and Soviets into a most unlikely alliance. Wintergren must be stopped. When attempts to torpedo his standings in the polls through apparently compromising personal information fail and backfire, they conclude there is only one option left, to eliminate Wintergren. Both Bolgin and his CIA counterpart look to Oakes to do the deed.
There is just one problem. Oakes has come to respect and admire Wintergren as one of a kind in his generation. Meanwhile, Wintergren’s security man has growing suspicions of Oakes, as does Wintergren’s mother. All this with global thermonuclear conflict hanging in the balance.
Actually, it doesn’t fall to Oakes alone. Erika Chadinoff is in on the alliance. Actually, they had already formed an intimate alliance of sorts, the typical spies in bed trope, despite Blackford’s relationship with Sally back home. It almost felt to me a bit obligatory and predictable. Far better, and more consonant with Buckley’s values would have been an unconsummated relationship, albeit with some sexual tension thrown in. That would have been more interesting.
The shame of this is that it wasn’t needed. The build up to the election, the moral dilemma and the international ramifications are plenty to make this an interesting story. The bromance between Wintergren and Oakes is far more riveting than the romance.