Better Dead: The latest Nathan Heller Thriller from Max Allan Collins!
It's the early 1950's. Joe McCarthy is campaigning to rid America of the Red Menace. Nate Heller is doing legwork for the senator, though the Chicago detective is disheartened by McCarthy's witch-hunting tactics. He's made friends with a young staffer, Bobby Kennedy, while trading barbs with a potential enemy, the attorney Roy Cohn, who rubs Heller the wrong way. Not the least of which for successfully prosecuting the so-called Atomic Bomb spies, Julius and Ethel Rosenberg. When famous mystery writer Dashiell Hammett comes to Heller representing a group of showbiz and literary leftists who are engaged in a last minute attempt to save the Rosenbergs, Heller decides to take on the case.
Heller will have to play both sides to do this, and when McCarthy also tasks Heller to find out what the CIA has on him, Heller reluctantly agrees. His main lead is an army scientist working for the C.I.A. who admits to Heller that he's been having misgivings about the work he's doing and elliptically referring to the Cold War making World War II look like a tea party.
And then the scientist goes missing.
At the Publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management Software (DRM) applied.
In trying to cover too much ground, Collins dilutes the impact of the main investigation in his 18th historical whodunit featuring PI Nate Heller (after 2013's Ask Not). In 1953, Sam Spade creator Dashiell Hammett hires Heller to find whatever evidence he can to secure Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, who are on death row for treason, a new trial. The investigator adroitly persuades U.S. senator Joe McCarthy, whose Communist witch hunt is at its height, and columnist Drew Pearson, a former McCarthy ally, to help fund his work by promising to reveal anything he finds to them as well. After learning how flimsy the government's case was against the couple, Heller pursues some leads he gets from a visit to Julius and Ethel in Sing Sing. The truth proves to be more nuanced than any of his employers believes, and Collins again does an effective job of bringing the past to life and making a complex cause c l bre accessible. Recent disclosures about the so-called atomic spies, however, lessen the suspense.