Friday, 28 November 2008


The Invisible World
by John Smolens
Flame 2002, 6.99, 0340822007

Samuel Xavier Adams has the kind of name a CIA director would love, though around Boston these days, Sam Adams is a beer first and a patriot second. Our Sam is a journalist, and the author of a book which accused his father of being one of John Kennedy’s assassins. Eventually, his book was discredited, and his career nose-dived. Now his mother is dying, but when she finally passes away, Sam is convinced it was his father who first killed her, and then stole the body. And of course there are people who don’t want either Adams talking any more about JFK.

Like Smolens’ previous novel, Cold, this is a book where setting plays a major role, and he is excellent at creating atmosphere and in placing his characters in contexts that make them believable. He’s also good at maintaining the sense of paranoia which can make a story like this move, and integrating that paranoia with Sam’s personal story; in that intersection of personal and political is the tension which drives the novel.

Which it does, and very well, at least until the moment when it descends, as it inevitably must, into chase. I suspect this will make it attractive to film producers, even if it’s a disappointment not to have the Kennedy Assassination solved on a fishing boat off Cape Cod.

But more than conspiracies, this book is about generations: Sam once wrote for a paper which is a thinly-disguised Boston Phoenix, one of the first of the ‘underground’ papers. His father, the equally aptly-named John Samuel Adams, is a member of the ‘best and brightest’ generation, making this a head-on clash between the Band of Brothers and their Sixties offspring: Oliver Stone meets Richard Helms at a family reunion. Smolens is good, and if this book lacks the impact of Cold, it’s still impressive.

Another of those reviews that hung around Crime Time far too long...but Fridays seem to be the days people point out 'lost' books, or reviews...

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