Deadly conspiracies abound in three recent books, offering surprising fictional revelations.
"Target Lancer" by award-winning author Max Allan Collins (Forge Books, $27.99) is the fourteenth novel in his popular series starring Nate Heller, dedicated Chicago private detective.
This time, the hero is involved in stopping a 1963 John F. Kennedy assassination attempt - not in Dallas, but in Chicago on November 2!
The author bases his compelling tale on true events and includes many real characters such as Robert Kennedy, Jimmy Hoffa, Jack Ruby, assorted mob figures and even noted fan-dancer Sally Rand.
Collins' book is fascinating reading with deadly action and unexpected complications, working well on a variety of levels.
The 9-page section "I Owe Them One" at the end of the novel offers more insights into numerous conspiracy theories.
"The Lincoln Conspiracy" by veteran journalist Timothy O'Brien (Ballantine Books, $26) deals with another important assassination, with events set in the time period following President Abraham Lincoln's death.
Washington D.C. policeman Temple McFadden discovers two diaries strapped to the body of a man who's been murdered at a local railroad station. The assailants are soon after McFadden, but he makes a quick escape.
McFadden gets assistance and learns that one diary was from Mary Todd Lincoln. The shocker is when he finds out that the other diary, in code, belonged to John Wilkes Booth.
This is highly innovative historical fiction, with the talented author continuously putting McFadden and his wife Fiona in constant danger.
There are many real characters involved, including Lafayette Baker (head of the Union Army's spy service), Secretary of War Edwin Stanton, master detective Allan Pinkerton and abolitionist Sojourner Truth.
The surprising conclusion makes O'Brien's fast-paced, intriguing debut novel well worth reading.
"In the Name of Honor" by Albert Payson Terhune (Black Dog Books, $16.95) is the first book publication of a tale that initially appeared in the pulp magazine "Argosy" in 1908.
It's still fresh today, as Terhune, who's much better known for his memorable dog stories, relates the tale of Civil War hero Guy Bruce, who travels to England to clear his family's name.
Framed in a clever conspiracy for a crime he didn't commit, Bruce is shipped off to a brutal Australian penal colony. While Lincoln and Stanton appear as minor figures, Bruce's strong character predominates, getting positive, vengeful yet rewarding results.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing's Curious Book Shop,
has reviewed crime novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987.
This review was originally published by the
Lansing State Journal on Sunday, January 6, 2013.