AMERICAN TABLOID

It's the Kennedys versus Jimmy Hoffa, Fidel Castro, and J. Edgar Hoover in this blistering, sprawling slice of Americana from the comic-book Dos Passos of our time. Jack Kennedy only wants to be president and keep getting laid; his brother Bobby, who burns with a more gemlike flame, wants to expose the mob's ties to the Teamsters' Pension Fund; Hoover wants to keep the FBI focused on American Communism rather than organized crime. As they grapple for power before and after the 1960 election, Ellroy focuses on three scoundrels caught in their conflicts. FBI agent Kemper C. Boyd becomes Hoover's man on the inside of the McClellan Committee, which Robert Kennedy's spearheading to get indictments on the mob; Boyd then allows himself to get drafted by a CIA officer who wants him to organize an anti-Castro insurgency force trained by a KKK alumnus. Boyd's friend Ward J. Littell, an FBI undercover op, vaults to the top of the Bureau ladder before a feud puts him on a collision course with Hoover. And Pete Bondurant drifts away from his regular job (procuring women and dope for Howard Hughes) to emerge as the CIA's stalwart Chicago Phantom. None of Ellroy's fictional characters, though, is the equal of his powerful, paranoid J. Edgar Hoover, the unmoved mover whose hand and voice are everywhere, even though he never appears in person. It's Hoover whose kiss-off of Ward Littell turns him into a pathetically loose cannon, and Hoover whose obsession with Castro seems to turn his coup into a godsend for the rest of the cast, providing everybody with a common scapegoat. But the Bay of Pigs fiasco, and Bobby Kennedy's renewed crusade against organized crime at home, shatters the principals' fragile alliances, and they're left plotting to shake down the sexually insatiable president. Ellroy reins in the more flagrant stylistic excesses of his L.A. Quartet (White Jazz, 1992, etc.), but indulges every overripe subplot you can imagine, in this lurid, volcanic historical epic.

Pub Date: Feb. 27, 1995

ISBN: 0-679-40391-4

Page Count: 592

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1995

Did you like this book?

No Comments Yet

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

A CONSPIRACY OF BONES

Another sweltering month in Charlotte, another boatload of mysteries past and present for overworked, overstressed forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan.

A week after the night she chases but fails to catch a mysterious trespasser outside her town house, some unknown party texts Tempe four images of a corpse that looks as if it’s been chewed by wild hogs, because it has been. Showboat Medical Examiner Margot Heavner makes it clear that, breaking with her department’s earlier practice (The Bone Collection, 2016, etc.), she has no intention of calling in Tempe as a consultant and promptly identifies the faceless body herself as that of a young Asian man. Nettled by several errors in Heavner’s analysis, and even more by her willingness to share the gory details at a press conference, Tempe launches her own investigation, which is not so much off the books as against the books. Heavner isn’t exactly mollified when Tempe, aided by retired police detective Skinny Slidell and a host of experts, puts a name to the dead man. But the hints of other crimes Tempe’s identification uncovers, particularly crimes against children, spur her on to redouble her efforts despite the new M.E.’s splenetic outbursts. Before he died, it seems, Felix Vodyanov was linked to a passenger ferry that sank in 1994, an even earlier U.S. government project to research biological agents that could control human behavior, the hinky spiritual retreat Sparkling Waters, the dark web site DeepUnder, and the disappearances of at least four schoolchildren, two of whom have also turned up dead. And why on earth was Vodyanov carrying Tempe’s own contact information? The mounting evidence of ever more and ever worse skulduggery will pull Tempe deeper and deeper down what even she sees as a rabbit hole before she confronts a ringleader implicated in “Drugs. Fraud. Breaking and entering. Arson. Kidnapping. How does attempted murder sound?”

Forget about solving all these crimes; the signal triumph here is (spoiler) the heroine’s survival.

Pub Date: March 17, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-3888-2

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scribner

Review Posted Online: Dec. 23, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

Did you like this book?

POP GOES THE WEASEL

After a flight in fantasy with When the Wind Blows (1998), Patterson goes to ground with another slash-and-squirm psychokiller page-turner, this one dedicated to “the millions of Alex Cross readers, who so frequently ask, can’t you write faster?” By day, Geoffrey Shafer is a charming, 42-year-old British Embassy paper-pusher with a picture-perfect family and a shady past as an MI-6 secret agent. Come sundown, he swallows a pharmacy of psychoactive pills, gulps three black coffees loaded with sugar, and roams the streets of Washington, D.C., in a battered cab, where, disguised as a black man, he rolls dice to determine which among his black female fares he—ll murder. Afterwards he dumps his naked victims in crime-infested back alleys of black- slum neighborhoods, then sends e-mails boasting of his accomplishments to three other former MI-6 agents involved in a hellish Internet role-playing game. “I sensed I was at the start of another homicide mess,” sighs forensic-psychologist turned homicide-detective Alex Cross. Cross yearns to catch the “Jane Doe murderer” but is thwarted by Det. Chief George Pittman, who assigns sexy Det. Patsy Hampton to investigate Cross and come up with a reason for dismissing him. Meanwhile, Cross’s fiancÇe is kidnaped during a Bermuda vacation, and an anonymous e-mail warns him to back off. He doesn’t, of course, and just when it appears that Patterson is sleep-walking through his story, Cross nabs Shafer minutes after Shafer kills Det. Hampton. During the subsequent high-visibility trail, Shafer manages to make the jury believe that he’s innocent and that Cross was trying to frame him. When all seems lost, a sympathetic British intelligence chief offers to help Cross bring down Shafer, and the other homicidal game-players, during a showdown on the breezy beaches of Jamaica. Kinky mayhem, a cartoonish villain, regular glimpses of the kindly Cross caring for his loved ones, and an ending that spells a sequel: Patterson’s fans couldn’t ask for more.

Pub Date: Oct. 19, 1999

ISBN: 0-316-69328-6

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1999

Did you like this book?

more