Patrick Radden Keefe is a much celebrated journalist with a list of honors and awards as long as your arm. He first drew my notice in 2019 with Say Nothing, his searing, meticulously researched book on The Troubles, that period of guerilla warfare in the North of Ireland, as its people tried (yet again) to break free of British imperial rule. That book rattled me to my core, and when I received a review copy for this book, I understood that there couldn’t possibly be another book as deeply affecting as his last. And I was right; it isn’t. It is, however, interesting in most places, and Keefe can write like nobody’s business. This book is for sale now; my thanks go to Net Galley and Doubleday for the galley.
Each chapter of this book is on a different topic; ostensibly, each is about a different rogue, or group of rogues, or—in one case—a whole family of rogues! However, there are a couple of chapters where that isn’t really true, and that is my strongest quibble with anything presented there. Most, however, are unquestionably about scoundrels. The first, about an obscenely wealthy wine snob who finds himself with some counterfeit wine, makes my blood boil. A private plane, burning enough fuel to melt the polar caps, or to transport a good many people to work for an entire year, is dispatched to fetch some wine. This one makes me cranky enough, and is lengthy enough, that I abandon it halfway in. The next, “Crime Family,” is a riveting expose of a notorious, yet strangely beloved Scandinavian kidnapper whose sister turns him in when she senses that he’s spiraling out of control. She owns five armored cars, because she knows her brother will never rest until one of them is dead. Chilling, indeed! Other favorites are about El Chapo, and about Mark Burnett, the promoter that turned Trump into The Apprentice, splicing and editing sufficiently to make the man sound coherent and businesslike. There is one about the Lockerbie bombing, and another about insider trading, that I tried to care about but couldn’t, so I skipped those. And there’s one about Jeffrey Epstein, too.
All told, this book is a meal. Even if you do as I did, and skip those that don’t spark your interest, this is a well written, worthwhile collection.
Recommended to those that enjoy well crafted journalism.