A vivid law-enforcement procedural with a larger-than-life central character.




The saga of New Jersey political and money-laundering scandals, tied together by an unlikely FBI informant.

Sherman and Margolin, both reporters for the Newark Star-Ledger, reveal the maneuvering behind the criminal charges filed on July 23, 2009, against more than 40 individuals—some of them local politicians across New Jersey, others with links to Syrian Jewish communities on the New Jersey shore. The politicians and the religious practitioners shared nothing in common except Solomon Dwek, the federal informant who operated undercover after being charged with bank fraud resulting from unsuccessful real-estate deals. The cast of characters helpfully listed by the authors totals nearly 100, and that is not a complete count of everybody who played a role in the intertwined investigations. As a result, some of the characters might fade from the reader’s memory quickly. Dwek, however, is memorable, given his high-wire informant act coached by the FBI and the U.S. Attorney for New Jersey. The extroverted, disorganized and apparently fearless son of a respected rabbi from a Deal, N.J., synagogue, Dwek entrapped many in the usually closed devout community, placing himself in exile from his wife, children and parents, among others. In exchange, Dwek hoped to receive a reduced prison sentence after being caught defrauding a lending bank and private investors in his schemes. It turned out that many who of those who failed to forgive the informant had been breaking the law as well, using synagogues and private enterprises to launder money for a fee on behalf of disparate secular parties who wanted to cover up ill-gotten gains. The political side of the sting coordinated by federal law enforcement had nothing to do with religion and everything to do with old-style bribes in cities across New Jersey—bribes that would have allowed Dwek to forge ahead with questionable commercial and residential real-estate projects. The authors set the scandals against the electoral backdrop of New Jersey, with the Republican candidate for governor defeating the Democratic incumbent a few months after the sting.

A vivid law-enforcement procedural with a larger-than-life central character.

Pub Date: March 15, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-312-65417-7

Page Count: 304

Publisher: St. Martin's

Review Posted Online: Dec. 30, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2010

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"There's got to be something wrong with somebody who'd do a thing like that." This is Perry Edward Smith, talking about himself. "Deal me out, baby...I'm a normal." This is Richard Eugene Hickock, talking about himself. They're as sick a pair as Leopold and Loeb and together they killed a mother, a father, a pretty 17-year-old and her brother, none of whom they'd seen before, in cold blood. A couple of days before they had bought a 100 foot rope to garrote them—enough for ten people if necessary. This small pogrom took place in Holcomb, Kansas, a lonesome town on a flat, limitless landscape: a depot, a store, a cafe, two filling stations, 270 inhabitants. The natives refer to it as "out there." It occurred in 1959 and Capote has spent five years, almost all of the time which has since elapsed, in following up this crime which made no sense, had no motive, left few clues—just a footprint and a remembered conversation. Capote's alternating dossier Shifts from the victims, the Clutter family, to the boy who had loved Nancy Clutter, and her best friend, to the neighbors, and to the recently paroled perpetrators: Perry, with a stunted child's legs and a changeling's face, and Dick, who had one squinting eye but a "smile that works." They had been cellmates at the Kansas State Penitentiary where another prisoner had told them about the Clutters—he'd hired out once on Mr. Clutter's farm and thought that Mr. Clutter was perhaps rich. And this is the lead which finally broke the case after Perry and Dick had drifted down to Mexico, back to the midwest, been seen in Kansas City, and were finally picked up in Las Vegas. The last, even more terrible chapters, deal with their confessions, the law man who wanted to see them hanged, back to back, the trial begun in 1960, the post-ponements of the execution, and finally the walk to "The Corner" and Perry's soft-spoken words—"It would be meaningless to apologize for what I did. Even inappropriate. But I do. I apologize." It's a magnificent job—this American tragedy—with the incomparable Capote touches throughout. There may never have been a perfect crime, but if there ever has been a perfect reconstruction of one, surely this must be it.

Pub Date: Jan. 7, 1965

ISBN: 0375507906

Page Count: 343

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Oct. 10, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 1965

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At times slow-going, but the riveting period detail and dramatic flair eventually render this tale an animated history...


A murder that transfixed the world and the invention that made possible the chase for its perpetrator combine in this fitfully thrilling real-life mystery.

Using the same formula that propelled Devil in the White City (2003), Larson pairs the story of a groundbreaking advance with a pulpy murder drama to limn the sociological particulars of its pre-WWI setting. While White City featured the Chicago World’s Fair and America’s first serial killer, this combines the fascinating case of Dr. Hawley Crippen with the much less gripping tale of Guglielmo Marconi’s invention of radio. (Larson draws out the twin narratives for a long while before showing how they intersect.) Undeniably brilliant, Marconi came to fame at a young age, during a time when scientific discoveries held mass appeal and were demonstrated before awed crowds with circus-like theatricality. Marconi’s radio sets, with their accompanying explosions of light and noise, were tailor-made for such showcases. By the early-20th century, however, the Italian was fighting with rival wireless companies to maintain his competitive edge. The event that would bring his invention back into the limelight was the first great crime story of the century. A mild-mannered doctor from Michigan who had married a tempestuously demanding actress and moved to London, Crippen became the eye of a media storm in 1910 when, after his wife’s “disappearance” (he had buried her body in the basement), he set off with a younger woman on an ocean-liner bound for America. The ship’s captain, who soon discerned the couple’s identity, updated Scotland Yard (and the world) on the ship’s progress—by wireless. The chase that ends this story makes up for some tedious early stretches regarding Marconi’s business struggles.

At times slow-going, but the riveting period detail and dramatic flair eventually render this tale an animated history lesson.

Pub Date: Oct. 24, 2006

ISBN: 1-4000-8066-5

Page Count: 464

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 1, 2006

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