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Man of Steel (Cold Cases Book 1) Kindle Edition
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|Length: 294 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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Top Customer Reviews
Joanas and Reno, two reporters from two different newspapers meet at a press conference which was a total washout. What follows is like chasing a crooked shadow (apologies to the movie Chase a crooked shadow directed by Michael Anderson, staring Richard Todd, Anne Baxter, etc.).
Reno is the hard working, scholarly and research oriented of the two. Their visit to a person mentioned to them leads to his "enacted accidental death". This starts the reporters to suspect foul play and cover up and they themselves become the target for whoever was behind the cover up.
I don't know how good reporters these two characters were, but Dave Conifer is indeed a most imaginative writer. He has spun a great novel using the Warren Commission report and to make an interesting one after hundreds of theories have already been widely discussed shows his creativity. The writing is fast paced, gripping and believable.
The ending is simply too good and shows that Dave Conifer knows his craft very well.
"Man of Steel" is not about Superman but about the steel industry, or, more specifically, the CEO of one major steel company who, according to Conifer's book, nursed a grudge against John F. Kennedy for almost 20 years before arranging for the Dallas assassination. The novel is set in the early 1980s, a time when many of the participants in the events surrounding the assassination were still alive. When the son of a former Dallas policeman claims his late father may have been the actual assassin, most newspapers ignore the man's claims, but Charlotte reporter Joe Jonas and Austin reporter Abbe Reno decide to follow up on it.
As Jonas and Reno investigate, they learn that there is much more to the story, albeit not what the original whistleblower was claiming. Instead, it appears that the CEO of a major steel corporation (hence the title) orchestrated the entire conspiracy, part of which involved placing poorly trained rookie recruit police officers on duty when Jack Ruby entered Dallas police headquarters to shoot Lee Harvey Oswald. These recruits let Ruby in, and the rest was history. One of the former recruits, now a middle-aged executive at the steel company, starts to tell Joe and Abbe what he knows, but the company's henchmen arrange his death in an "accident" and then go after Joe and Abbe themselves. Joe and Abbe spend the last half of the book pretty much on the run, trying to stay alive while getting enough evidence to justify printing the story.
As JFK conspiracy theories go, the one Conifer hypothesizes isn't all that bad, and he does have some evidence in the Warren Commission findings to justify it (which Abbe is able to dig up and explain to Joe and the readers). Books like "Man of Steel" require a suspension of disbelief, and I was more than willing to do so. Unfortunately, the rest of the novel proved just too incredible for me to accept. I can buy that the CEO of a major company orchestrated the assassination, but the motive Conifer supplies is weak, and I can't see the CEO of a public company in the 1960s being able to divert the vast amount of money and corporate manpower needed for such an effort without being detected. Further, I can't see him keeping a "hit squad" handy for 20 years on the company payroll, bribing, threatening, or killing off anyone who gets too close to the truth. Even 20 years later, the company is able to send more than a dozen agents, many of them cold blooded killers, into the field where they follow Joe and Abbe around. The most surprising feat these agents pull off is setting up a fake detour on a fairly well traveled road that diverts precisely one car, the one driven by the man they want to kill, and later running him off the side of a cliff (I'm not sure how many cliffs they have in Pittsburgh). Amazingly all this preparation and coordination (before the days of computers and cell phones) occurs during the victim's fairly short commute from his suburban home to work.
Another weakness of "Man of Steel" is its character development, or lack thereof. The main characters, Joe and Abbe, are not all that interesting. After spending 300 or so pages with them, all I learned was that they were young and seemingly had endless amounts of time to devote to this one story. There's virtually no character development and the "investigation" they do mostly consists of carefully reading the Warren Commission findings. Although Joe and Abbe, specifically Abbe, may have read these findings carefully, "Man of Steel" doesn't have the feel of having been written by someone who's thoroughly familiarized himself with the underlying story. While I believe Conifer has the factual basis he claims for his theory, the discussion in the book focuses narrowly, far too narrowly, on one of the less interesting aspects of the case... the possibly bogus police officers who let Jack Ruby get to Lee Harvey Oswald. I was a bit disappointed that the entire book revolved around that obscure point (I was expecting an "X Files" style massive detailing of everything suspicious surrounding the assassination. It seemed to me that Conifer's research may only have uncovered the rather sparse material he details in the book.
I'm giving "Man of Steel" a marginal recommendation and one that is based solely on the strength of its underlying subject matter. Conifer has gotten as little dramatic mileage as possible out of his premise. He's created a rather lackluster pair of main characters and added some routine action sequences while concocting a plot and a set of villains that are too outlandish to believe, even for the most ardent conspiracy theorist. Beyond the conspiracy itself, "Man of Steel" often reads more like "Man of Tissue Paper" instead.