A Crooked Man

A Crooked Man

by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, Wendell Minor, Sigrid Estrada

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This first novel by long-established New York Times book critic Lehmann-Haupt is a fast, fluent political thriller that delivers its share of surprises right up to the last minute-in which a senator's vote in a budget roll-call can be literally a matter of life and death. The protagonist, Senator Nick Schlafer, is a man whose world is coming apart: his cherished teenage daughter is dead, apparently of a drug overdose; he drinks too much; his wife is moving away from him; and he is trying in vain to introduce a bill that would start to decriminalize drug use. It soon becomes clear that an old family friend, now Washington's drug czar, is profoundly opposed, whereas some criminal elements see a way to make money out of his plan. Schlafer is caught desperately in the middle, and fears for his young son in the fallout. Much of the story is told in crackling dialogue, and Lehmann-Haupt has a fine ear for the talk of smooth hoods and conniving politicos. Convincing set pieces include a botched setup of the crooks and a working political breakfast in which a drunk local hack tries to tell a joke. Finally, however, the story, though always strongly readable, seems a little too tricky, especially toward the end, and the machinery by which Schlafer figures out his daughter's cryptic posthumous clues is more laborious than fascinating. In sum, a largely enjoyable debut that suffers from some imbalance between the skill of the telling and the rather vaguely shifting motivations of its hero. (Feb.)
Library Journal
New York Times daily book critic Lehmann-Haupt has crafted a masterful first novel about a U.S. senator embroiled in a tantalizing mystery. Protagonist Nick Schlafer is flyfishing as the story opens, but the idyllic mood quickly turns harrowing when he reels in a ventriloquist's dummy that may symbolize what could happen to his son if he continues to support drug decriminalization legislation. It also makes him wonder whether his daughter's death by overdose a year earlier might not have been an accident. His quest for answers winds through federal government agencies, Congress, the White House, and the small Pennsylvania town of his youth. Deft characterization, credible dialog, and a strong plot enhance this smart tale of corruption and intrigue. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/94.]-Will Hepfer, SUNY at Buffalo Libs.

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Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.39(w) x 9.53(h) x 1.02(d)

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