A Crooked Man

Overview

As Senator Nick Schlafer fishes alone in a stream that runs through his private country compound in northern Virginia, he reels in a ventriloquist's dummy that looks very much like a little boy. He knows immediately that this is neither accident nor coincidence. For the senator, who lost his daughter only a year before, an apparent victim of a drug overdose, the veiled threat that something might happen to his son is more than he can bear. It is also bewildering. He has no enemies, at least none he knows of. ...
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Overview

As Senator Nick Schlafer fishes alone in a stream that runs through his private country compound in northern Virginia, he reels in a ventriloquist's dummy that looks very much like a little boy. He knows immediately that this is neither accident nor coincidence. For the senator, who lost his daughter only a year before, an apparent victim of a drug overdose, the veiled threat that something might happen to his son is more than he can bear. It is also bewildering. He has no enemies, at least none he knows of. True, the legislation he plans to introduce, laws that would decriminalize many of the common street drugs, will doubtless infuriate many and touch off a contentious debate. But could someone feel so personally threatened as to bring harm to a young child? Moving from Washington's corridors of power - the Senate and the White House itself - to the small town in Pennsylvania where Schlafer grew up and where his teenage daughter died under what Nick feels were mysterious circumstances, A Crooked Man is a complex and thoughtful suspense novel, fast paced yet yielding up new twists and revelations at each turn, to the very end. Filled with perfectly realized characters - Nick's estranged but still-loved wife; a curiously literate organized crime chief; Nick's rival, both in politics and for his family's affection, the enigmatic and powerful Emery - A Crooked Man is about a family haunted by its own secrets, and about the way in which these secrets, never faced or discussed, emerge into the larger world of public affairs, with deadly results.

While fishing, Senator Nick Schlafer reels in a dummy that looks like his young son. He had lost his teenaged daughter to a drug overdose only the year before. Now, the senator is about to introduce a piece of legislature that will change the face of America--by decriminalizing drugs. It's a bill that could make a man a lot of enemies.

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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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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780671734442
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 1/3/1995
  • Pages: 351
  • Product dimensions: 6.39 (w) x 9.53 (h) x 1.02 (d)

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