An elderly Bonnie Parker in the 1980s tells of how she and Clyde Barrow protected the Manhattan Project in this final thriller in a trilogy.
What if Bonnie and Clyde’s deaths in a famous 1934 shootout were faked, so that they could serve American interests as undercover agents? That’s the premise of the previous two books in this trilogy, in which the outlaws changed their names to Brenda and Clarence Prentiss and performed special assignments for their handler, Sal. In 1984, 74-year-old Bonnie has made a deal with reporter Royce Jenkins: She’ll give him her full story if he helps her solve three mysteries, including Sal’s true identity. As they investigate—and dodge people following them—Bonnie explains how she and Clyde went undercover in the 1940s as owners of the Ranchland Deluxe bar in Richland, Washington—a city that was also the location of a top-secret plutonium production site for the Manhattan Project. Their mission was to discover who in the community might be “willing, or forced, to share secrets with America’s enemies.” By 1945, they narrowed down the suspects to six Americans, plus a couple of suspicious Germans and Russian circus performers—but they soon found themselves dodging knives, bullets, other spies, and a firebombing. Later, Royce tracks down the surprising, explosive truth about Sal and the organization backing her. Hays and McFall (Bonnie and Clyde: Dam Nation, 2018, etc.) keep up the momentum in this third series outing, which features plenty of action and danger. There are also intermittent steamy interludes between Bonnie and Clyde, who come off as a wisecracking, low-rent version of Nick and Nora Charles from The Thin Man. Tricky puzzles, chases, spycraft, and red herrings keep the plot bubbling along. But underlying all the shenanigans is a serious consideration of the nature of patriotism in an America that’s increasingly becoming dominated by the military-industrial complex. Overall, the book makes a rousing stand in favor of have-nots, working people, and dreamers; at one point, Bonnie unusually stands up for gay rights in 1945 (“Love is love no matter what”).
Another winner in this highly entertaining series, capped off with satisfying revelations.