Kirkus Reviews QR Code


Death, Denial, and a Mother's Crusade to Bring Her Son's Killers to Justice

by Mara Leveritt

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-19841-8
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's

Award-winning investigative reporter Leveritt’s debut is a wrecking-ball tale of tragedy, malfeasance, and machine politics that resembles an all-true Arkansas Confidential. In 1987, Linda Ives suffered a parental worst-nightmare when her son and a friend were run over by a train, whose crew observed them supine and covered with a tarp before impact. Local law enforcement attributed the deaths to a massive overdose of marijuana and dismissed the crew’s tale as “optical illusion,” in the first of many suspicious official fumbles. Ives compelled a series of investigations that began promisingly yet were inexplicably stifled by such malign forces as the state’s notoriously incompetent medical examiner (protected by then-Governor Clinton) and an admired local prosecutor who championed her cause as camouflage for his own criminal activities. As years passed, and more unsolved killings occurred, Ives assembled evidence that the boys had stumbled upon a diffuse conspiracy involving CIA-backed air suppliers to the Contras, who ran an enormous cocaine-trafficking operation from a remote airport. Fanciful as this may sound, Leveritt documents how Ives’s quest for transparency was consistently stymied, first by local agencies, then the state police, finally by the FBI. A portrait emerges of state governance as a deeply corrupted good-ol’-boy network, funded by drug money and protected by blackmail and violence. Leveritt’s prose is less than taut, and she too often indulges in repetitive emotional rhetoric regarding the Iveses” loss. That said, her investigatory efforts seem impeccable; little within this page-turner reads as implausible “conspiracy theory.” Unlike many works that have dug for the dirt of the Clinton gubernatorial era, this is an authentically shocking, deeply unsettling portrait of contemporary American power backstopped by arrogance and callous greed—and of the “drug war” as a weapon of social control from which insiders enjoy impunity. One hopes for sufficient outrage garnered to substitute for justice denied; also, for an inevitable movie adaptation that won—t dilute the story’s uglier civic dimensions.