Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

Kaminsky employs few stylistic flourishes, rarely using metaphors or other forms of word imagery, instead devoting the story’s limited space to straightforward narration in order to build suspense. As in Frederick Forsyth’s novel The Day of the Jackal (1971), about a real plot to assassinate French president Charles de Gaulle, Kaminsky’s potential victim is a real person, so there can be no doubt about whether the targeted victim will be killed. Nevertheless, there is considerable uncertainty about how the potential assassination will be thwarted and whether the would-be assassin will escape.

Although Pevsner is essentially faceless, and even partly nameless, Kaminsky allows the reader to identify with him as a first-person narrator with an urgent assignment. He places Pevsner firmly in a tradition that has become especially important in detective fiction since the 1970’s: His protagonist is an essentially ordinary man, possessing neither the enormous intellect nor the eccentricity of a Sherlock Holmes.

Unlike some historical fiction, “The Buck Stops Here” is remarkably free of anachronisms. Only a reference to “a Marcello Mastroianni hat” fails to ring true, as it predates the Italian film actor’s general recognition in the United States. On the other hand, Kaminsky does not attempt to superimpose 1980’s political attitudes on 1957. There are references to the Central Intelligence Agency and Federal Bureau of...

(The entire section is 417 words.)