Monday, May 15, 2023

Book Review: The Devil May Dance

Charlie and Margaret Marder, political stars in 1960s Washington DC, know all too well how the tangled web of power in the nation's capital can operate. But while they long to settle into the comforts of home, Attorney General Robert Kennedy has other plans. He needs them to look into a potential threat not only to the presidency, but to the security of the United States itself.

Charlie and Margaret quickly find themselves on a flight to sunny Los Angeles, where they’ll face off against a dazzling world of stars and studios. At the center of their investigation is Frank Sinatra, a close friend of President John F. Kennedy and a rumored mob crony, whom Charlie and Margaret must befriend to get the inside scoop. But in a town built on illusions, where friends and foes all look alike, nothing is easy, and drinks by the pool at the Sands and late-night adventures with the Rat Pack soon lead to a body in the trunk of their car. Before they know it, Charlie and Margaret are being pursued by sinister forces from Hollywood’s stages to the newly founded Church of Scientology, facing off against the darkest and most secret side of Hollywood’s power.

The Devil May Dance is the second novel from Jake Tapper, following in the series started by 2018's The Hellfire Club. It was released May 21, 2022, from Little Brown and Company.

Tapper continues to build out the world of his crime-stopping duo of Charlie and Margaret Marder. This time, he takes them out of their usual element and into the glitz and glamour of 1960's Hollywood. As he notes, he does take a few slight liberties with the timeline, but, for the most part, does manage to once again weave together an tapestry for his fictional world that involves noted real-life big names. This is one of those series where you should go with the flow, and you just might learn a little bit of history along the way. He has definitely done his research which he notes at the book's end.

I like how he builds upon his main characters from their first outing. Charlie is a WWII veteran who wrestles with his constant drinking. Margaret is an intelligent scientist with an insatiable and sometimes wreckless curious streak. This characters have some layers and flaws that interesting. The writer in me likes that a lot.

Something I am not a fan of is the way he does flashbacks though. Example: chapter 15 ends with a dramatic beat so the action then jumps in chapter 16 to New York City. However, we don't get the culmination of that dramatic beat until halfway through the chapter when we jump to a flashback. This is just one of several times I saw that technique in this book. It just throws me off. Mileage may vary.

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