In Toscano’s (Triple Cross, 1990) debut mystery, a reporter investigates the death of a woman who may have had ties to Cuban revolutionaries—and John F. Kennedy’s assassination.
Disillusioned war correspondent Michael Savella returns home to Atlantic City, N.J., and a dead-end job writing obituaries at the struggling local paper. Apart from his friendship with a jack-of-all-trades petty criminal and his burgeoning romantic relationship with a sexy nightclub singer, he doesn’t have many reasons to get up in the morning. However, after he accidentally hits an elderly woman’s car and she dies of a heart attack shortly thereafter, he stumbles on a mystery. The woman, Mary Bloom, initially doesn’t seem to have much of a story—just a few mysterious photos in a box and an address book filled with names, including five different numbers for a priest in Illinois who swears he’s never met Mary in his life. Savella becomes obsessed with digging deeper, eventually unearthing a conspiracy involving Mary, the priest, a former Cuban revolutionary–turned–bodega owner, a Cuban casino heir in Vegas who blames the Castros for his family’s exile and, most surprisingly, Jack Ruby—the killer of Kennedy assassin Lee Harvey Oswald. However, as Savella comes closer to discovering Mary’s secrets, he puts himself and those he cares about in ever more danger. Toscano creates a hyperdetailed, salacious mystery that revolves around one of the world’s most enduring conspiracy theories, but the story occasionally gets a little too tangled up in its web of characters and plot points. The book’s seedy Atlantic City setting and compelling protagonist will keep readers turning pages until the end, but the story might have been stronger if it were significantly shorter. That said, readers who stick around will be rewarded with the finale’s high-stakes drama, as well as with Savella’s witty relationship with Sylvie Feidy, a tough local cop who distrusts him even as she tries to help him.
An often engaging but overlong mystery.