Written by RG Belsky — Author RG Belsky was most recently managing editor of news for NBCNews.com and a former managing editor for the New York Daily News, among other journalistic posts. That gives him ample experience to write authoritatively about his main character and first-person narrator, Gil Malloy, a down-on-his luck reporter for the Daily News, and about the book’s Manhattan setting. His many authentic details to the believability of this amateur investigator story.
The Kennedy Connection is the first in the Gil Malloy series and takes place in 2013, as the 50th anniversary of President John F Kennedy’s assassination approaches. That event was a preoccupation of Malloy’s father, and the reporter has inherited his dad’s extensive collection of reports, books, and personal files on the case, including those by leading conspiracy theorists. Belsky effective draws you into that world of alternative theories.
Reporter Malloy was disgraced after a serious breach of journalistic ethics. Though he kept his job, he’s assigned to the newsroom dregs, while he watches another young reporter, Carrie Bratten, acquire the mantle of up-and-comer that he once wore. You feel his frustration with his second-class citizenship and cringe when he’s a little too quick to latch onto a story he thinks will save him.
Despite his professional woes, a couple of people still respect Malloy’s investigative and reporting skills and want his help. His former agent has a client with a new book that needs some advance publicity. The hook? The author claims to be Lee Harvey Oswald, Jr – the illegitimate son of Kennedy’s assassin – who believes his book will clear his father’s name.
And a police buddy he met during the aftermath of 9/11, Roberto Santiago, asks him to investigate the death of a young ex-gang member from the South Bronx, Victor Reyes. Reyes was shot 15 years earlier, left a paraplegic, and finally died when the bullet lodged in his spine worked loose and traveled to his heart. The unknown malefactor who shot him is now a murderer. Santiago is killed by a drunk driver before Malloy can get any further than a few initial interviews with family and cops from the scene, one now a serious drunk, another a deputy police commissioner, and a third having left the force for parts unknown.
But then a series of murders begins, each with a Kennedy half-dollar coin left at the scene. These deaths seem too much of a coincidence, taking into account the revelations of the new book by Oswald, Jr, especially when someone sends Malloy a letter at the Daily News promising more mayhem. In the envelope, a Kennedy half-dollar. Malloy is teamed up with Bratten to cover this high-profile story. Victor Reyes’s death, like his life, is forgotten.
Malloy is riding high in his journalistic world, and that’s good enough for him. Author Belsky does a good job making Malloy a likeable character who could use a little more personal insight. The other newsroom characters are also well drawn, and there’s some engaging banter, though Malloy at times is downright rude to newbie Bratten. His need to one-up her is painful, but he’s learning.
Just like Jake Epping in Stephen King’s 11/22/63, the character of Oswald, Jr, is trying to rewrite history and ends up having second thoughts about meddling with the past and its ghosts. Efforts to deconstruct what Malloy calls “the greatest murder mystery in history” have a substantial pedigree in literature, from King’s work to Don DeLillo’s Libra, to James Ellroy’s American Tabloid, to Tim Baker’s Fever City. The mystery aspects of the killings and implications of the Oswald, Jr, book are well plotted in Belsky’s addition to this lineage.
CFL Rating: 4 Stars