A former U.S. State Department intelligence officer tries to solve a 1973 murder case.
Burton (Ghost: Confessions of a Counterterrorism Agent, 2008) lives in Austin, Texas, after a career as a policeman and a chief with the State Department Diplomatic Security Service. He is currently a vice president at Strategic Forecasting (STRATFOR), a private company that has been termed a “shadow CIA.” None of those jobs caused the author to forget a murder in his normally quiet Bethesda, Md., neighborhood when he was 16. The murder victim was Josef Alon, a husband and father who had lived in Israel and served as a successful fighter pilot before a diplomatic/military posting to Washington, D.C. Nobody harmed the daughters, and no robbery had occurred. After entering law enforcement, the author vowed that he would try to solve the homicide, unofficially and off the clock. Writing with military historian Bruning (co-author: House to House, 2007), Burton conveys an impressive passion to solve a mystery that higher authorities either did not want to solve or had already solved but refused to acknowledge. As the author guides readers through more than 35 years of on-and-off investigating, he shares speculative musings, evidentiary dead ends and occasional solid advances. Because so many individuals are direct or indirect suspects, many of them whom Burton cannot or will not name, others with apparent aliases, his investigation can be difficult to track, and long stretches without progress become tiresome. Eventually, he solved the murder, at least to his intellectual satisfaction. However, much of the evidence is circumstantial, and some of it is of questionable reliability, given its second-hand or third-hand nature in the minds of elderly men who have been employed as professional dissemblers.
Burton should receive an A for effort. If in truth he has identified the killer—he concedes he has not identified a second man who drove the getaway car—he should receive an A+ as a detective.