A son wars with his father over his dead mother’s ashes in an edgy, Oedipal thriller.
Names aside, these Adams men, John and Sam (father and son), give off zero patriotic resonance. For one thing, John is, by trade, an assassin. Actually, he may be the assassin, since evidence exists placing him in Dealey Plaza, Dallas, rifle in hand, the day JFK was shot. In one scenario, he’s there as part of a secret service contingent protecting the president, but son Sam doesn’t buy that for a minute. To the contrary, he’s written a book—One True Assassin—persuasively putting the case for dad as triggerman. That, however, isn’t really Sam’s major gripe against his father. Apparently, he could have lived with the idea of John the presidential assassin. It’s John the family deserter, the father who never was, that keeps resentment on the boil. As the story opens, long-suffering Mrs. Adams, hospitalized, is about to breathe her last, Sam keeping a vigil at her side. From some mysterious corner of the world, John materializes in time to be there at the end and then outrace Sam to the crematorium. Mind you, Sam has minimal desire for the purloined ashes, but now that his father seems to value them, Sam’s desperate to get them back, which means that suddenly there’s a motley list of determined John-hunters: furtive figures from his checkered past who mean him harm; two journalists who want to write books about him; a ruthless ex-senator who wants to make political capital of him. And the bitterly angry son who never knew whether to love or hate him.
Crafted by a writer who’s good at atmospherics (Cold, 2001, etc.). But individual scenes that are striking don’t quite do it when a pivotal character—the father, in this case—is so ambiguous that his motives are impenetrable.