As President Jack Kennedy takes power, the mob decides to succeed where the CIA has failed and take out Fidel Castro. They dispatch a hit man, but it soon turns out that he has his own agenda and target - the President. But is the hitman operating alone, or does someone else want Kennedy dead?
Kerr does a great job leading the reader down all sorts of blind alleys. Tom Jefferson, a hit man who uses the names of presidents as aliases, has been approached by a man with reputed mob connections to do a feasibility study (the dreaded F word) on killing Castro. The mob is ostensibly interested in returning Havana to its former glory as a gambling Mecca when they had considerable control. Tom, snooping around, discovers his contact also has CIA connections, so he begins to become wary. He is paid $150,000 up front, a huge amount in 1959, as a down payment on the contract, after the mobsters review his plan. Then, intending to revel in their common prurient interest in Marilyn Monroe, one of the contacts promises to let Tom listen to a tape of JFK making love to Marilyn. What he hears on the tape, however, horrifies him. The mobster got the wrong tape and Tom hears his own wife, Mary, a Democratic party campaign worker, taking Kennedy every which way. Mary is found dead, an ostensible suicide, and Tom disappears from the mob's radar, taking the money with him. and the mob now fears that he will take his revenge on Kennedy. They hire Jimmy Nimmo, an ex-detective, to find Jefferson. The mob, having spent millions to assure Kennedy's victory in the election because of his vigorous anti-Castro stance, can't afford to have him killed. Nimmo's investigation reveals that Mary had been murdered very cleverly, in such a way as to make it look like suicide. The reader assumes that Tom has killed her vindictively for her fling with JFK. In the meantime, Tom has contacted an old friend at the FBI, Alex Goldman -- the FBI used Tom for its own purposes on occasion -- for information he needs to set up the hit on Kennedy. Goldman willingly cooperates. There are enough double twists and triple crosses to keep everyone satisfied except review writers who try not to reveal what happens -- you'll just have to read or listen to the book to get the scoop. I'll only disclose that Jefferson, after substantial effort and the best-laid plans, lines up a perfect shot on Kennedy's head as he visits Harvard and pulls the trigger three times.
The result will surprise you as it did me and make you wonder about the Cuban Memorandum. That should make you want to read the book. It's very plausible. Kerr, much as he did in Berlin Noir— an outstanding series of detective novels set in pre- and post-war Germany) weaves in fascinating period detail making Havana steam and Cambridge freeze.
The time is 1960 and the place is a paranoid USA: Tom Jefferson is a hit man hired by the Mafia, in cahoots with figures from the FBI, to assassinate Fidel Castro for newly elected JF Kennedy, whose handling of the Cuba crisis has made him some enemies. .
As usual, Kerr populates his book with forgotten historical figures to flash out his own creations and although he never changes the historical records, he does present a new sense of what might have happened under the surface, and depict another side of past heroes we think we know. Oh and of course, there is always a bit of a twist of some sort to keep you guessing.
The Shot is an interesting book, a page-turner that reads like fact but is fiction - not Kerry at his best but very good al,l the same.
Though, fictional, the names of the many important players in our country's history - the Kennedys, Marilyn Monroe, Sinatra, LBJ, Nixon, & Dan Rowan (really?) - from this era are all present in the story. The novel has a sufficient number of deviations to keep most thriller readers interested.