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Swager dives into the JFK assassination head first
on May 8, 2016
As Stephen Hunter's Bobby Lee Swagger is getting on into the Metamucil and Medicare phase of his life, the focus of his escapades have been nudged ever so slightly to the cerebral and away from action. In this installment, Swagger is injected into the never ending JFK assassination conspiracy theory parallel universe that operates with its own unique brand of physics. Swagger is dragged into this mess while investigating the killing of an author researching JFK. As Swagger enters the fray with his Columbo style detective work, it becomes apparent that someone is quietly watching everything and intervening when anyone looks close to connecting the right dots. With minimal backup from official law enforcement and assistance from peripheral players, Swagger is able to flush out the original mastermind.
The tale is related as two stories, Swagger's detective efforts and the diary entries of the 1963 mastermind who engineered the hit on JFK. Hunter has crafted a well designed theory that is consistent with the official Warren report as well as interweaving odd, ancillary clues. Unfortunately, the detective work offers little in the way of good tradecraft and is more dependent on Swagger's insight and epiphanies. The actual gunfights are well rendered, but few and far between. The diary of the mastermind is largely the embellished rantings of an over the top narcissist with a flare for British dandiness, that puts a drag on plot development, slows the pace, and lengthens the story considerably.
There's a James Bond / Spectre quality where unbeknownst to Swagger, he has been in the mastermind's sights ever since beating him to the punch of securing a special Russian weapon back in the Vietnam era. Finally, the notion of a former CIA agent faking his own death and then winding up fantastically wealthy as a Russian oligarch and spending his vast fortune for 50 years of surveillance of JFK crackpots is a bit hard to swallow.