Sara-Jayne Townsend is a published crime and horror writer and likes books in which someone dies horribly. She is founder and Chair Person of the T Party Writers’ Group. http://sarajaynetownsend.weebly.com/
As the title suggests, this book is set in Manhattan in 1962. The Cuban missile crisis is about to rock the world, and in America everyone is terrified of ‘the red under the bed’.
And in the midst of all this, NYPD detective Pat Wynne is trying to solve two apparently connected murder cases – that of a young Cuban man and a young American woman. Both victims, on the face of it, have no connection, apart from sporting the same tattoo. In addition to all this, Pat has to decide if the enthusiastic Russian student, Max Ostalsky, that he offered the hand of friendship to in the summer is all he says he is – or is he a spy and a traitor?
Those of us who weren’t around in 1962 find it hard to appreciate the terror that existed around the Cuban missile crisis. There was a genuine feeling in America that the world was going to end. And this terror is effectively harnessed in this book. There is a feeling of hopelessness portrayed through Pat as he goes through his investigations, believing that it might all be pointless since nobody will live to see tomorrow, and a turbulent emotional battle within him as he fears a man he considers a friend will betray him, while hanging on to the vain hope that he’s wrong and Max isn’t a spy after all.
It is the atmosphere that makes this book come alive: the portrayal of New York in the early 1960s; the fear of communism that coloured everyone who lived there at the time; the bohemian young things who found socialism attractive and daring, and who risked being arrested as traitors simply for expressing their political beliefs.
For me, growing up in the UK after 1970, the Cuban missile crisis is just a point in history. I had no real appreciation of the fear that engulfed the world at that time. This book does an excellent job of bringing that fear home – of making the reader appreciate just how terrifying this incident was for ordinary people.
The murder plot is engrossing, too. Were both victims really killed by the same person? What is the Cuban connection? It is a well-constructed murder plot, with the detective diligently following clues and chasing after red herrings before the truth is revealed by the end of the story.
This book works on many levels – as a political thriller; a murder mystery; a historical crime novel; a snapshot of American history. If any of these things appeal to you, then this book is a must-read.