Friday, 12 April 2019

November Road, by Lou Berney.

            The assassination of President John F Kennedy in November 1963 has given birth to conspiracy theories galore, not to mention rafts of published material, both fact and fiction guaranteeing the continued life of the legend.  Stephen King introduced the supernatural element in his masterful novel of time travel in ’12.22.63;  now we have Lou Berney’s version of the tragedy in Dallas.  And it is chillingly plausible.           
            Frank Guidry is a fixer for Carlos Marcello, a ruthless Louisiana crime boss whose reach is long and power absolute;  Frank is his favourite because he’s very good at his job, which is keeping even a sniff of trouble away from his merciless employer, and for that he is well paid.  He’s handsome, a sharp dresser, and well-read enough to fool all kinds of people.  He loves being indispensable.  Until the unthinkable Crime of the Century occurs:  Kennedy is murdered in Dallas, and Frank is despatched from New Orleans to Dallas with instructions to dump a car hiding an incriminating weapon in the tide.  Which he does, for a good soldier always follows orders – until he realises that plans of disposal have been made for him, too:  he knows too much.  Never mind that he would eat his teeth before he would divulge that he has figured out that Oswald and Ruby were patsies and that Kennedy’s murder was a mafia hit:  sadly, the only way his boss can be sure he won’t talk is to silence him forever.
            Frank finds this morally outrageous.  Is this any way to treat a 100% loyal employee?  His only course of action is to go on the run, which is fine – at first, until he hears that Paul Barone, a particularly evil killer has been hired to find him and end his life as painfully as possible:  well, he’s not going to make Barone’s job easy for him – he has friends in Las Vegas who will help him leave the country, if he can get there in one piece.
            And he does, with the help of a young woman and her two little girls and their family dog;  Charlotte has left her drunken husband and is going to her aunt in Los Angeles.  Frank is not the only one on the run, but a chance to pose as a family man will be the perfect disguise – he hopes.
            Lou Berney’s characters leap off the page.  His dialogue can be smart and funny, until the reader is sideswiped by dramatic, jaw-dropping twists in the plot of a great story in which there are few winners.  SIX STARS 

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