The best thing about Louis Begley’s new book “Killer Come Hither” (Talese/Doubleday, $25.95) is that it’s short – only 248 pages.
There are too many bad things to detail them all – it’s more challenging to decide where to begin the list and when to stop.
Begley, who’s written a dozen other fiction and non-fiction books, has created a distinctively literate thriller that is only occasionally thrilling.
The tale is told using an odd first person narrative style without any quotation marks. There are minimal paragraph breaks, frequently just a few per page, slowing down the reading pace.
The characters are interesting but mostly sneaky or peculiar. Much of the plot revolves around the comfortable life of the ultra-rich, in various parts of New York.
It’s the story of Jack Dana, a former Yale history student who joins the Marines after 9/11. He’s an infantry platoon leader who’s hit by sniper fire and ends up in Walter Reed Hospital.
While recuperating, Jack starts on his first novel, writing about his military experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan.
He’s helped through his recovery by his Uncle Harry, a prestigious lawyer who’s acted as a surrogate father to him over the years. Jack moves in with Harry, who uses his connections to get the book published.
When Jack’s novel becomes a literary success and a best-seller, they’re related. When Jack’s next book has similar results, Jack goes off to South America to celebrate.
Upon Jack’s return, he learns that Harry has committed suicide; he doesn’t believe that this is possible and sets out to discover the truth.
Other attorneys at the law firm are secretive; Jack’s sure that they know much more and delves deeper into his uncle’s death.
The police consider the case closed; Jack gets assistance from Kerry, Harry’s most trusted associate and his friend Scott, conveniently a CIA agent.
The main villains are a right-wing multi-billionaire and a killer named Slobo. Most characters seem wooden, the outcome is predictable and seems more than a little contrived.
Begley is a former attorney who has great insider knowledge about life among New York’s Elite; his fans may enjoy another look at the extravagances of the super-wealthy.
Unfortunately, he’s created a book that is basically unsatisfying to mystery readers except those who enjoy literary experimentation.
Ray Walsh, owner of East Lansing’s Curious Book Shop, has reviewed crime novels and Michigan books regularly since 1987.
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This review was originally published by the Lansing State Journal on July 5, 2015.