The new novel by Bond (The Doorstep of Depravity, 2005, etc.) looks at the Kennedy assassinations through the eyes of an unsuspecting witness to conspiracy.
It’s the summer of 1963. Cajun ingénue Bones LeBeau arrives in New Orleans and lands a waitress job at a seedy restaurant where a clique of underworld-type figures known to her only by their first names holds court in the back room. Bones and her co-worker Tina keep busy in back serving food and playing strip dice-rolling games for the entertainment of the regulars and their guests, including a gentlemanly singer they call Mr. Frank. But she occasionally overhears their unsettling table talk about Cuba, “The Company,” “Norma Jean” and a certain objectionable public servant; her innocent suggestion that they get said official fired sparks a malevolent glimmer in their eyes. Drifting to Dallas, Bones works at a strip club belonging to one Mr. Jack, brings hamburgers to a group of men who discuss rifles in French and picks up on veiled talk of hypnosis; come November 22, she starts to discern a monstrous plan amid these disjointed observations. The author steeps Bones’ story in atmospheric settings and punchy dialogue, and Kennedy assassination mavens will enjoy spotting various figures and plot shards from prominent conspiracy theories. Unfortunately, the heroine’s naïve ramble through history is so perfunctory that no suspense builds while we wait for the opaque conversations and low-key encounters to gel into the tragedy we know is coming. (An explanatory appendix by a fictional KGB operative makes the conspiracy vaster and more confusing, but no more exciting.) Then, in a subplot set in ’68, two random people are clued in by Bones’ taped reminiscences to a looming conspiracy against Bobby Kennedy and face this dilemma: should they race to California to thwart another assassination, or should they just sit around until it unfolds in front of them on TV? Stymied by his characters’ passivity, Bond tries to juice things up with drawn-out striptease scenes, but even these are so good-natured and prim that our pulses stay rock steady.
A less-than-thrilling takeoff on the Kennedy murders.