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THE JAZZ BIRD by Craig Holden

THE JAZZ BIRD

By Craig Holden

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2001
ISBN: 0-7432-1296-7
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

A consistently interesting fictionalized version of a real-life Jazz Age crime.

After shooting his wife, George Remus, a.k.a. King of the Bootleggers, goes directly to the nearest police station and turns himself in, at which point the question becomes, of course, not who but why—and would he get away with it? The time was 1927, October 6, to be exact, the day when beautiful Imogene Ring Remus and her flamboyant husband were to bring a legal end to their puzzling, odd-couple marriage: until George ended it his way. Inevitably, when the trial began at last, the Cincinnati newspapers called it the “Trial of the Century,” and certainly the requisite ingredients were there: murder, lust, endless betrayals, an exquisitely complex love triangle (enmeshed in it was Special Agent Frank Dodge, a star of J. Edgar Hoover’s freshly minted investigative body, while Ohio’s Chief Prosecutor was Charlie Taft, son of the former president), a lost, strayed, or stolen treasure, and enough headline-hunting principals to keep the Speed-Graphics boys popping flashbulbs to a fare-thee-well. Soon enough, the Defense made its strategy clear: not guilty by reason of insanity. But that strategy came only after Remus, a busy member of the Cincinnati bar in his pre–rum-running days, decided to let wiser friends prevail and backed away from his original chest-thumping stand that “Remus’s lawyer shall be Remus” and accepted the hard-nosed, high-profile Carl Elston as co-counsel. The courtroom battle was finally joined, the tides sweeping back and forth until the very day of the verdict—which, when it came, came fast: in 15 minutes.

A little long and a little slow, but with a Gatsby-like quality that lifts it way above the average. Once again, Holden (Four Corners of the Night, 1999, etc.) proves he can do the job.