Paul, a successful Chief of Rheumatology at Columbia Presbyterian, is at a content stage of life having a loving home with the obligatory wife and two young sons. As they share a meal and high jinx the TV breaks in to live news coverage of the assassination of the Democratic front runner for President in the upcoming elections. The assassin is named as being Daniel Allen, Dr Paul Allen’s son from an earlier marriage. Paul can’t believe that his own son can have committed this crime and copes by becoming obsessed with every detail of Daniel’s life in the months leading up to Seagram’s shooting.
Paul initially has the full support of his wife and young sons but in his quest to find answers he increasingly becomes more and more remote from them, likening his search to an affair as he secretly phones his friend who is doing some of the digging around on his behalf.
While Paul ruminates on the hows and whys he recounts other famous assassinations in the US and fills in the background details. He shows there were some which don’t stand up to scrutiny and he uses this to try and spur himself on to find out who has set up his son to be the fall guy.
Shady characters and redemption possibilities come and go and up until the end, the reader isn’t entirely sure if Daniel is as guilty as the authorities say he is. Once Paul reads Daniel’s diary that question is answered once and for all.
Others have complained that there is too much detail about, for example, Sirhan Sirhan and other famous assassins. For me, however, that was one of the strengths of the novel. Knowing that things sometimes don’t make sense elsewhere is the rationale for what Paul does despite his knowledge of the risks to his comfortable life that this will bring.