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From Barnes & NobleThe Barnes & Noble Review
Few writers in recent years have garnered as much praise as Craig Holden, the superb novelist of the harrowing thriller The River Sorrow and the riveting police procedural Four Corners of Night. From The New York Times to The Washington Post and from bestselling authors as diverse as Robert B. Parker and Michael Ondaatje, the critics are unanimous: Holden is a voice to be reckoned with.
The Jazz Bird, Holden's fourth novel -- and his first foray into the genre of historical fiction -- is a brilliantly executed, character-driven page-turner set amid the glamour and turbulence of the 1920s. Based on actual events, it revolves around a popular Al Caponelike Cincinnati bootlegger, George Remus, who brutally guns down his sexy, blue-blooded wife, Imogene, on the day of their divorce. Minutes later, Remus turns himself into the police and confesses to the murder.
Cut-and-dried, right? Maybe not. Remus pleads not guilty. "What I did was justified," he says, "and that shall be my defense. Morally justified homicide." Enter Chief Prosecutor Charlie Taft, a hotshot lawyer who is the youngest son of former president and Supreme Court justice William Howard Taft. Riddled with self-doubt and having a lot to prove, Charlie knows that the case against Remus is going to be a circus for the press and that if he fails to get a conviction, he can kiss his political ambitions goodbye. A fiery court battle ensues, against a backdrop of high society and Prohibition's alluring and dangerous underworld. Soon, Charlie and the public begin to realize that the angel-voiced Imogene -- the Jazz Bird -- may not have been as innocent as first thought.
Atmospheric, taut, and populated by wonderfully drawn characters, The Jazz Bird will undoubtedly draw comparisons to E. L. Doctorow's Ragtime and F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Is it that good? Well, not quite. But if Holden's writing doesn't equal the range of these two masters, his book is, on it's own, a work of pure beauty -- a literary thriller that enchants you, seduces you, and ultimately scratches at your skin. This is, by far, Holden's best work yet. (Stephen Bloom)