For the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Swanson (Bloody Crimes: The Chase for Jefferson Davis and the Death Pageant for Lincoln's Corpse, 2010, etc.) breathlessly re-creates the tragedy.
Drawing on the decades of technological advances that have deepened the knowledge of the assassination, the author presents the stunning unfolding of the event in punchy, poignant vignettes, following one character after another to the inexorable conclusion. “Today we know much more about the assassination of President Kennedy than the members of the Warren commission did,” acknowledging the organization appointed by President Lyndon Johnson to investigate the murder and present its findings nearly a year later. Swanson’s tidy, concise character summaries give a terrific sense of the dramatis personae in just a few strokes: JFK, impossibly brilliant and charismatic, overcoming enormous obstacles to his rising star; stylish Jackie, emerging from mourning the death of newborn Patrick, agreeing to accompany her husband to Dallas as part of the campaigning swing through Texas, holding up beforehand for Jack the outfits she had chosen to “show these Texans what good taste really is”; Lee Harvey Oswald, the “lifelong loser and nobody,” planning to catch a bus after killing the president; and LBJ, incredibly poised under the strain of those first few hours, especially regarding his graciousness toward Jackie. Swanson manages a sympathetic, human portrait of Marina, Oswald’s long-suffering Russian wife, and excoriates the Secret Service for many bad decisions—e.g., the immediate washing out of the limo and the rush to take JFK’s body back to Washington, D.C., before a proper criminal autopsy was performed, an oversight that would “come to haunt the history of John Kennedy’s assassination for the next fifty years.” Clarity has finally lifted the lingering suspicion of conspiracy in favor of the creation of a shining Kennedy legacy.
Chilling, gruesome and riveting.