QUEEN BEE by Eugene Kennedy

QUEEN BEE

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Kennedy (Himself) knows his Chicago politics--but this fitful saga of a woman mayor's rise and fall is repeatedly dragged down by implausible characterizations, patchy plotting, and the same sort of talkiness that slowed Kennedy's equally flawed (but more interesting) first novel, Father's Day. The mayor-to-be, who only very superficially resembles Jane Byrne, is Ann Marie O'Brien--a well-educated, non-political beauty whose husband is MIA in Vietnam and who heads a civilian group involved in the MIA issue. But Daley-like Mayor Tom Cullen spies Ann Marie's political potential and installs her as chairwoman of the blue-ribbon panel that will distribute Chicago's cable-TV franchises: what a delighted Ann Marie doesn't know, however, is that she's been selected as a patsy to help Curran cover up some bribery scandals and fight some aldermen enemies. Nonetheless, while finding sexual fulfillment on the sly with lecherous newsman Paul Martin (an obvious creep), Ann Marie blossoms as a politico--gabbing the limelight, making tough deals, yet presumably holding onto some sort of ideals. And when Cullen has a heart attack and then a stroke, she rises from vice-mayor to acting mayor--gaining the support of most of the sleazy back-room types. Unfortunately, however, Kennedy fails to make Anne Marie either believable or likable as she goes constantly back and forth from nasty/ruthless to stupid/innocent. The plotting, too, is a messy patchwork of corrupt deals, back-stabs, and issues--despite a contrived attempt to frame it all with the investigation into a series of graphically detailed homosexual murders (which will ultimately threaten Ann Marie's career). A few savvy glimpses into old-style politics, then--the knit-suit crowd, mayoral protocol, the inside dealing--but those engaged by the idea of a woman-mayor will find far more character and genuine drama in Kathleen Whalen FitzGerald's Brass bio of Byrne.

Pub Date: Nov. 12th, 1982
Publisher: Doubleday