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THE THIRD BULLET by Stephen Hunter


by Stephen Hunter

Pub Date: Jan. 8th, 2013
ISBN: 978-1-4516-4020-5
Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Bob Lee Swagger comes out of retirement to solve the murder of John F. Kennedy.

Lots of people are killed in hit-and-run accidents, but Jean Marquez isn’t so sure that her husband was one of them. In the weeks before his untimely death, James Aptapton, an alcoholic writer and gun fanatic whose hero, Billy Don Trueheart, will surely ring a bell for fans of Hunter (Soft Target, 2011, etc.), had been bitten by the JFK conspiracy bug, and his widow has come to Idaho to ask Swagger what he thinks. He thinks he’ll pass until she drops one last detail: The ancient raincoat found in an elevator mechanism compartment in the Dal-Tex Building, just yards from the Texas Book Depository, showed signs of being run over by a bicycle. Hunter is at his best in unmasking problems with the evidence against Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone gunman—why did the third bullet he allegedly fired at the president explode without leaving any recognizable traces? Why did Oswald cock his rifle once more after the kill shot? Why, after shooting Officer J.D. Tippit three times, did he stop to administer an unnecessary coup de grace?—and proposing an alternative scenario that provides logical answers. But neither the conspiracy he invents nor the people who act it out, from Russian gangsters and oligarchs to a rogue CIA officer determined to protect the nation from Kennedy’s policies and the tight little crew he gathers around him, are credible for a moment, and his decision to alternate sections of the chief conspirator’s tell-all journals with Swagger’s dogged pursuit of him produces less tension than bemusement. If it weren’t for the promised firepower at the showdown, all but the staunchest conspiracy buffs would give up midway.

An uneven thriller that’s unpersuasive as revisionist history but has its points as a hard-knuckled critique of conventional wisdom on the assassination and a portrait of the hapless Oswald.