Local author spins intriguing tale
Finally, an alternative to Hilary Clinton’s “Living History.”
That’s the way “Kiss the First Lady Goodnight” Simon and Schuster publishers describe author Jim Ryan’s novel, an intriguing romp through a rat’s nest of clues in the underworld of American politics to determine who killed fictional ex-first lady Susan Billingsly.
The book opens in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., where Billingsly – now an ex-first lady, ex-New Jersey senator, ex-attorney, ex-wife and a felon – has been relegated to working in a pet shop. But one day police find her with an axe buried in the back of her head, and no one knows why.
Ryan, who lives at Copper Mountain Resort, provides the reader with a lengthy list of potential murder suspects. The task of whittling it down falls to ex-public defender Jim O’Hara and his friend and attorney Kathy Swift and the patience of the reader.
First and foremost on the list, is Billingsly’s skirt-chasing ex-husband, Dave “The Dog” Billingsly. Then there’s Luther Goerring, Susan Billingsly’s most recent lover and an ex-federal prosecutor.
There’s the highly secretive Justice Department’s Strike Force, originally put together in the 1960s – and supposedly disbanded in the 1980s.
And no one is without their closeted skeletons.
Kathy’s history includes an indictment and subsequent acquittal for her part in the shooting death of a man who killed her partner on the police force.
There’s Joey Calbone, an ex-Mafia convict whom O’Hara met in federal prison, where O’Hara was spending two years on trumped up money-laundering charges. Calbone is friends with “Tony Blue,” whom O’Hara represented once, and who has promised to help O’Hara any time he needs.
There’s flighty Lauren Dowd, Dave Billingsly’s presidential aide who proves to be more critical to the story than she lets on.
And there’s the motive – a videotape of two of the book’s characters involved in illicit activities that could bring down their careers if leaked to the public.
But who has the tape – and who will end up with it – proves to be the meat of the story as the book’s characters fly from Florida to Atlanta to Washington, D.C. – even to a tiny town in Nicaragua, where O’Hara decides to hide until his enemies from back home descend on it with helicopters and blow the village to smithereens.
There are guns and kidnappings, mercenaries, pornographic photos, wire transfers and blackmail. The action is never-ending; the story twists through conspiracy theories as fast as its protagonists race across the Eastern seaboard.
The sheer number of characters in this tale of intrigue is enough to boggle the mind; Ryan generously reminds the reader who used to be employed where to keep the reader on track. It’s worth sticking with it, though.
The suspense is great in “Kiss the First Lady Goodnight,” even if it is difficult to follow the twisting manipulations of federal prosecutors who cavort with the likes of the Mafia.
All in all, “Kiss the First Lady Goodnight” is plausible, making a suspenseful read through a land of the underworld of politicians enjoyable.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or email@example.com.
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