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A Time Gone By: A Novel Hardcover – July 22, 2003


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (July 22, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743217101
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743217101
  • Product Dimensions: 9.6 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #5,749,947 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

An aging police detective's regrets are examined in raw, moving detail in this superior crime drama revolving around an old murder case. Told from multiple viewpoints spanning a 30-year period from 1945 to 1975, the novel charts the troubled conscience of Jake Downing, who has risen to chief of detectives in New York City yet remains haunted by an investigation he oversaw as a young detective. Downing and his partner, Jimmy Finn, had the misfortune of being assigned the hot-potato homicide of Judge Wallace Reed, who was found bludgeoned to death in his apartment on a rainy morning at the end of WWII. For political reasons, the city's influential underworld bosses, as well as the police brass, frame a local thug for the killing, despite Downing's suspicions that Reed was slain as part of a shady real estate deal. Downing reluctantly goes along with the setup, a decision that leads to the execution of an innocent man. At the same time, the detective also falls under the influence of Reed's young wife, Cynthia, who seduces Downing into an affair that destroys his marriage. Now, 30 years later, Downing-seeking personal redemption under the guise of a quest for justice-reopens the case, finding himself fighting the same political and personal forces as in his younger days. Edgar-winning Heffernan (The Dinosaur Club; Beulah Hill) once again shows himself a craftsman of the hardboiled style, as well as a seamless handler of shifting viewpoints and emotions. Though predictable in its conclusion, this small, quiet story of one man's quest to free himself from his demons and guilt is a modest gem.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Veteran crime writer Heffernan offers an atmospheric homage to the noir-tinged melodrama of the 1940s. Standing for Dana Andrews in the film Laura is NYPD detective Jake Downing, who falls under the spell of Cynthia Reed, hatcheck-girl-turned- wife of a crooked judge, whose head has been bashed in with a gavel. When the big boys downtown deliver a gift-wrapped suspect, Jake and hard-nosed partner Jimmy Finn know the fix is in, but their hands are tied---not that Jake cares much, since he's fallen into the widow Reed's bed while his own wife prepares to give birth back in Brooklyn. Flash-forward 30 years, and Jake, now a widower himself, vows to reopen the case. Heffernan juggles the time frames effectively, gradually revealing what happened and how it affected the principals' later lives. The crime story plays itself out agreeably if a tad predictably, but the real draw here is the cafe-society ambience--dinner at the Stork Club, drinks at 21, etc. A pleasant evening's read, best served with martinis. Bill Ott
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Debra Purdy Kong on July 11, 2008
Format: Hardcover
One look at the dingy, barely lit street corner on the cover of William Hefferman's novel, A Time Gone By, and you'll know this isn't a book about cuddly cats and amateur sleuths. The bleak ambience continues on the novel's first page with a gloomy rainy night and a dead body. But here's the thing: Hefferman's writing is so elegant that I want to call the novel beautiful. From page one, I was drawn into the story by the style and protagonist's voice as much as the plot and 1945 time period. And then there's the intriguing twist in chapter two. The story leaps forward thirty years, when Chief of Detectives, Jake Downing, is still haunted by events of that night. In 1945, he was a twenty-five-year-old rookie detective, and about to make the biggest mistake of his life.

At first, the plot seems straight forward. Jake and his more experienced partner, Jimmy Finn, are assigned to find out who murdered a prominent judge. But they soon realize that powerful higher-ups have already decided how this case will turn out. Things become complicated both professionally and personally for Jake as he begins to fall for the judge's gorgeous young widow, while Jake's pregnant wife waits for him at home.

Hefferman does an excellent job of switching back and forth in time while moving the story forward at a carefully measured pace. Like most noir novels, this book depicts people trapped in tough-to-hopeless situations. People motivated by hidden agendas, betrayal, revenge, lust, love, and pure survival. But what really captured me was the emotion driving this novel. Not just violent rage, but guilt, regret, sadness, resignation, and varying degrees of love. Perhaps the best noir crime novels are all about strong emotions and what happens when those emotions override common sense. A Time Gone By demonstrates this in a terrific story with captivating prose.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Harriet Klausner #1 HALL OF FAME on August 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In 1945 Manhattan, homicide detectives Jimmy Finn and Jake Downing investigate the death of Judge Wallace Reed. The most likely murder weapon, a heavy gavel with blood on it, was found near the corpse. Meanwhile City Democratic boss Manny Troy orders Downing to guard the victim's wife Cynthia, who the cop badly desires.
In 1975, Downing watches his wife Mary interred in a Brooklyn cemetery. He guiltily thinks back thirty years to the affair with Cynthia while Mary gave birth alone to their daughter. Knowing he cannot make up for what he did to Mary, Downing feels he can somewhat rectify his other blunder of helping the state execute an innocent man for murder of the judge. He persuades Finn to join him in reinvestigating the case since improved technology will help, but the brass tells them as they were warned three decades ago to leave it alone or else.
This is a pure police procedural as William Heffernan provides two investigations into the same murder separated by only time. The story line with its two interrelated subplots is cleverly designed so that the audience sees the changes in people and even more the differences in how investigations are conducted. The depressing key cast members all emit negative vibes so that the audience never roots for anyone. Sub-genre fans will appreciate A TIME GONE BY as a powerful comparative duality that entertains the reader.
Harriet Klausner
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 100 REVIEWER on January 25, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
New York City, 1945. A prominent judge is murdered in his home. Jake Downing and Jimmy Finn are the detectives assigned to the case. By the time they arrive at the murder scene, the police commissioner and Manny Troy are already there. Troy is "the boss of the city's Democrats." He makes sure that Downing and Finn provide around-the-clock protection for Cynthia, the judge's young widow, in addition to investigating the murder. Although Downing is married and about to have a baby, he becomes intimately involved with the woman he's supposed to be protecting.

New York City, 30 years later. Finn is retired and Downing, now chief of detectives, having laid his wife to rest, reopens the investigation of the judge's death. Downing has never wavered in his belief that an innocent man was executed for the crime.

The novel shifts between those two time frames, telling the story of the 1945 murder investigation and the story of its impact on Downing's life after three decades have passed. The story is also told from shifting points of view: sometimes as a third person narrative, sometimes in the first person from Downing's perspective. A couple of times the story is told in first person from Finn's perspective -- an odd choice that seems out of place, given that this is Downing's story, not Finn's.

A Time Gone By is a competent mystery that, unfortunately, seems too familiar. The scenes from 1945 attempt to develop a sense of noir that is overly reminiscent of a Bogart movie. The supporting characters are stereotypes: the Irish cop who speaks in a brogue; the beautiful young woman who is a hat check girl before she marries an older, powerful, abusive man; the corrupt politicians and nasty thugs.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Michael L. Slavin on December 26, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Judge Wallace Reed was found murdered in his East 54th Street townhouse. The judge was being primed to run for governor of New York state against Tom Dewey. Two detectives, Jimmy Finn and 25 year old rookie Jake Downing are assigned to the case. Their investigation is interfered with by Democratic City boss Manny Troy who has his own agenda. The time frame of the case was from 1945 to 1975, when after 30 years Downing, now Chief of Detectives, suffers from a guilty conscience about his role in allowing the guilty murderer to escape while sending the hoodlum set up by Manny Troy to the electric chair. Along the way the reader is privy to the atmosphere at The Stork Club, a torrid affair between Downing and the beautiful 23 year old wife of the deceased at the same time his wife was about to give birth, as well as the mega real estate deal for the future site of The United Nations. The book moved along at a fairly good clip with flashbacks alternated with present. The final part of the investigation was quite exciting and somewhat unexpected.
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