The Kennedy Connection: A Gil Malloy Novel
THE KENNEDY CONNECTION is a surprise, to say the least. Veteran newspaper and television journalist R. G. Belsky returns to the mystery shelves after an extended absence with a new character in the form of Gil Malloy and a new novel in which all of the gears mesh together so nicely that what might have been a merely competent work becomes a title that deserves to be shortlisted for the year-end best-of lists. Yes, it is that good.
Malloy comes with an interesting backstory. He was a once-great reporter for the New York Daily News who made a major mistake. Actually, that’s not accurate. He made the worst error a reporter can possibly make --- he made up a story and passed it off as news. He is still employed by the paper, but barely so. White, male, old and disgraced, his chances of regaining his former lofty position in the firmament of reporter heaven is slim to none, and slim just left town. Belsky does an amazing job of developing Malloy into a character you can see so well that he seems to float off the page right in front of the reader. All of us, in some vocation, know a Malloy. While reading THE KENNEDY CONNECTION, you will play “reminds me of” from the beginning of the story to the end.
"R. G. Belsky returns to the mystery shelves...with a new character in the form of Gil Malloy and a new novel in which all of the gears mesh together so nicely that what might have been a merely competent work becomes a title that deserves to be shortlisted for the year-end best-of lists."
The other noteworthy element is the mystery at the heart of the book. Someone in New York is killing people named Kennedy and leaving a Kennedy half-dollar at the scene of the crime. When the doer contacts Malloy and threatens more violence, his editors are understandably suspicious, given his prior history, particularly his penchant for manufacturing evidence. Notwithstanding that, they give Malloy his head, to some extent, pairing him with the current star reporter in a reluctant teaming that slowly but surely starts to mesh.
In the meantime, though, Malloy has two other potential stories. One involves a man who purports to be the son of Lee Harvey Oswald and is working on a book that supposedly tells the truth about the JFK assassination. The other concerns the murder of a Puerto Rican gang member, a cold case of some years’ duration that absolutely no one (well, almost no one) cares about. Malloy had promised to investigate the case, but it looks like he is going to break that vow, which he made to the victim’s family and to himself. As the stories move forward, Belsky, through Malloy, presents an interesting secular version of a question asked in the New Testament: What does it profit someone to gain the world but lose their soul? It is a question that Malloy asks himself, even as he strays from the path of what he should do as he pursues what he must.
THE KENNEDY CONNECTION succeeds as a character study, presenting Malloy as a flawed individual with a great degree of insight who strives, somewhat erratically, to do better. There are also a couple of intriguing mysteries here, and Belsky’s use of the Kennedy assassination as an indirect vehicle for a serial killer is a unique and interesting one. It appears this is the first of a series; if so, it is off to a great and auspicious start.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on September 26, 2014