THE DANCING MEN by Duncan Kyle


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Neatly plotted but unexciting novel of intrigue surrounding a US Presidential aspirant, by the author of the much more compelling The King's Commissar (1984). Senator John Leyden, a famous Vietnam hero, has decided to go for broke and run for the Presidency. His ex-fiancÉe, Zee (for Zelda) Quist, once an athlete but now wheelchair-bound, heads his campaign and hopes to be head of his Cabinet. There is a problem, though. Leyden's father's name was Connor. He died in a plane crash the year John was born. Leyden never knew his own father. But Connor in turn never knew his father either, because Grandfather Connor was run over by a carriage as was his pregnant wife. She died shortly after giving birth to John's father, who was adopted by Henryk Leyden the carriage driver. Zee Quist has hired young lawyer James Hamilton to devote himself to an investigation of the Connor family. In Ireland, Hamilton himself hires an assistant, a professional genealogist, and between them they uncover Grandfather's extremely raunchy past: he was a serial child-molester and rapist of women. (The genealogical research is the novel's strongest plus.) Can Zee Quist keep this material from surfacing? When Hamilton is killed, she hires a detective to track down the genealogist who had assisted Hamilton, since he must be silenced. Zee is no murderer, but blackmail and violence arise, and part of the guilt clearly springs from Leyden's rash young half-brother Billy. As it happens, the President does find out and smears Leyden with his grandfather's past. But this backfires, gaining Leyden sympathy. He wins the Democratic nomination, but just as he is about to accept it he hears even worse news about Grandfather Connor, whose medical history bears an irremediable black mark that perhaps accounts for his criminal behavior. Okay, but with too little in the people here that can engage for the reader's sympathies. One just reads for the working out of the plot.

Pub Date: Aug. 29th, 1986
Publisher: Henry Holt