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Potus Geeks Book Review: The Devil May Dance by Jake Tapper

CNN anchor Jake Tapper follows up his 2018 novel The Hellfire Club (reviewed here in this community) with his latest work The Devil May Dance, the second mystery in the Charlie and Margaret Marder series. Congressman Charlie Marder and his brilliant wife Margaret are back. Eight years have passed since we last visited them. The former academic and WW2 veteran is now a four-term House member with a growing family and a growing problem. The pressures of the job are taking their toll on him and his drinking is getting out of control. He's had to compromise his principles by courting shady labor unions in order to win re-election as a Republican in a liberal New York district. There's a new President in the White House (he liked the old one better) and Charlie is not a big fan of the Kennedys. Charlie's talented wife Margaret is bored by having to trade in her career as a zoologist for the duties of motherhood and the strain in the Marder marriage is becoming apparent.



Charlie's problems are about to get worse when his father, venerable Washington DC lawyer and political fixer Winston Marder, is arrested for racketeering. Hoping to help his father out of his predicament, Charlie reluctantly takes an assignment that he is pressured into by the hardball playing Attorney-General Robert F. Kennedy. With Margaret in tow, Charlie agrees to go to Hollywood to serve as a consultant on the film The Manchurian Candidate. There the Marders come into close personal conduct with some of the most famous entertainers and other tinsel town personalities of the time, including Frank Sinatra and the famed "Rat Pack", John Wayne, Marilyn Monroe, L. Ron Hubbard of the Church of Scientology and directors John Frankenheimer and Alfred Hitchcock. They also encounter several of the famed mobsters of the day including Sam Giancana.

Suspicion is cast on Charlie when two young actors are murdered and the body of one of them is found in his rental car. Charlie and Margaret traverse the shady underbelly of 1962 Hollywood, replete with stories of the casting couch and human trafficking, while battling the demon of his alcoholism. The Marders are reunited with an old friend, and make a number of new friends, while on their real mission for Attorney-General Kennedy.

Tapper repeats a demonstration of his literary prowess as he writes another page turner and keeps readers on the edge of their seats. Tapper is so convincing in his ability to make fiction seem like fact, that it is only in the sources and acknowledgements section that the author lets the readers know what portions of the story are rooted in fact and what parts are the product of a brilliant imagination. I was fooled on at least one major element of the story.



I don't know why it took me over three months to read this book, given that I enjoyed Tapper's first mystery so much. The dial is set just right in this book in the mixture of history with mystery. The subject matter of this book will appeal to so many interests: history, politics, pop culture, cinematography, and mystery to name a few. The writing is superb and makes it such an enjoyable read. One reviewer has suggested not reading this book too late at night because it is hard to put down. That was certainly my experience.
Tags: book review, john f. kennedy, robert f. kennedy
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