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The Man Who Never Returned: A Novel

The Man Who Never Returned: A Novel

3.2 11
by Peter Quinn

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Judge Joe Crater's disappearance in 1930 spawned countless conspiracy theories and captured the imagination of a nation caught in the grip of The Depression.

Fifteen years later, Fintan Dunne the detective encountered in Quinn's novel Hour of the Cat, recently retired and bored, answers a summons to New York where he is asked to solve the old case


Judge Joe Crater's disappearance in 1930 spawned countless conspiracy theories and captured the imagination of a nation caught in the grip of The Depression.

Fifteen years later, Fintan Dunne the detective encountered in Quinn's novel Hour of the Cat, recently retired and bored, answers a summons to New York where he is asked to solve the old case for a newspaper magnate only interested in making a profit from the story.

Peter Quinn once again has written a compelling blend of history and fiction that is simply unputdownable.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for The Man Who Never Returned:

"Peter Quinn just might make it into the history books himself. He is perfecting, if not actually creating, a genre you could call the history-mystery. The Man Who Never Returned is a dazzling story by a fine writer. Fintan Dunne is a memorably hero who you want to meet again & again." — James Patterson

"In The Man Who Never Returned, Peter Quinn shapes a tantalizing tale around the enduring mystery of Judge Joseph Force Crater, whose disappearance remains a major mystery. Quinn knows New York and its politics better than anyone. The talk and the story are as sharp and hard-edged as they city they embody. This is noir fiction at its finest." — William Kennedy

'The nonstop sizzle of two new historical novels set in Manhattan makes them strong candidates for the beach this summer.' — The New York Times, Round-up of books about New York government

"The Man Who Never Returned is a winner. A masterful and evocative tale, set in a beautifully rendered 1950's New York, it combines true crime with vivid imagining. This is that rare book: A first-rate thriller that seamlessly weaves together page-turning narrative with richly detailed characters whose motivations—complex, suspect, hidden— always ring true." —Thomas Kelly, author of A Testament of Devotion

'A new take to the old mystery' — New York Post 'Required Reading'

Peter Quinn brings wit, panache and a deep knowledge of the Big Apple to his latest Fintan Dunne novel. The Man Who Never Returned is a taut thriller but also a meditation on life in the big city, where a well- connected municipal judge can disappear overnight and leave behind a mystery that transforms lives, confounds investigators, and fortunately for lovers of detective fiction provides Quinn with a fascinating plotline that fully utilizes his skills as a storyteller. — T.J. English, New York Times best-selling author of Havana Nocturne

'Peter Quinn writes about the old New York the way that Allen Furst writes about Paris. The Man Who Never Returned is not only a gripping take on one of the city's most enduring mysteries, but also a world in and of itself. You may never want to leave.' Kevin Baker, author of Strivers Row

"Quinn delivers a satisfying solution to the real- life mystery of Joseph Crater, a New York City judge who disappeared in 1930, in this stellar hard-boiled historical novel, a sequel to The Hour of the Cat (2005). In 1955, a New York newspaper magnate offers PI Fintan Dunne carte blanche to investigate the case in the hope that Dunne will provide him with a sensational exclusive. Crater vanished just as an official inquiry into judicial corruption, ordered by then governor Franklin Delano Roosevelt, was getting underway. Perhaps Crater fled to avoid prosecutionïor someone bumped him off because he knew too much. Restless in retirement, Dunne accepts the offer, despite his skepticism that such a cold trail can be meaningfully pursued. Quinn not only makes the existence of clues at such a late date plausible but also concocts an explanation that's both logical and surprising. The depth and complexity of the lead character is a big plus." —Publisher's Weekly

'I read Peter Quinn's novel The Man Who Never Returned. It is an utterly compelling story with a charismatic flawed protagonist in Finton Dunne. Gripping from the first page to the last, Peter Quinn creates a unique and utterly believable world, part history, part fiction. He is an enviably wonderful writer.' — Gabriel Byrne

'Freely mixing history, mystery, and novelistic license, Quinn offers a noir-ish tale of Tammany Hall politics, sex, crime, Broadway moguls, and cops, populated by more than a dozen interesting characters...Quinn's rich, insightful, evocative descriptions of New York, both in Crater's time and in 1955, will certainly please fans of historical crime novels.' — Booklist

"With echoes of Raymond Chandler and Orson Welles, as well as enough period detail to outfit a vintage shop, this workmanlike effort will appeal to those interested in literary and noirish historical mysteries." —Library Journal

'A page-turner noir novel...Quinn masterfully crafts a forceful narrative whose revealing ending doesn't disappoint.' — Irish America Magazine

Kirkus Reviews
A novel that suggests a fictional resolution to a historical mystery. The disappearance of New York's Judge Joe Crater in 1930 sparked speculation for decades that has never completely dissipated. After a restaurant dinner one evening, he stepped into a taxi and was never seen again. Was he a murder victim, silenced because he was about to expose the corruption that had bought his appointment? Was he a possible embarrassment who could derail the presidential ambitions of New York Governor Franklin Roosevelt? Was he a womanizer who fell afoul of a spurned lover or perhaps a lover's mate? Maybe there was even someone who had designs on Crater's wife and wanted him out of the way. Or perhaps he vanished for reasons of his own. All of these explanations are possible, some even plausible, within the fourth novel by Quinn (Looking for Jimmy: A Search for Irish America, 2007, etc.), a former New York publishing executive and political speechwriter. Though the author plainly knows the lay of the land through experience and research, the framing seems overcomplicated. The novel takes place on the 25th anniversary of the judge's disappearance, when a Rupert Murdoch-like journalism mogul hires detective Fintan Dunne (from Quinn's Hour of the Cat, 2005) to reopen the case. The publisher's heavily bankrolled interest seems something of a mystery to both the detective, who had been uneasily retired, and the reader. The judge never makes an appearance in the novel, except through the recollection of others, and almost all of the characters are fictional, with the notable exception of the judge's wife (or widow). "As long as people are interested in sex, crime, politics and the big city, Crater will continue to be of interest," explains an "Author's Note." But since the detective doesn't enter the picture until 25 years after the disappearance, most of his research comes from reading. Thus, despite the obligatory interludes of sex and violence, the reader spends much of the book looking over the protagonist's shoulder at what the detective is reading. This hybrid of mystery and history builds a compelling case but sets a leisurely pace in the process. . . .

Product Details

The Overlook Press
Publication date:
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
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File size:
729 KB
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Peter Quinn is the author of Hour of the Cat, The Man Who Never Returned, Looking for Jimmy, and The Banished Children of Eve, all available from Overlook.

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The Man Who Never Returned 3.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Michael-Lechter More than 1 year ago
When a book has praise on its jacket with sources as varied as James Patterson and William Kennedy it's hard to know just where the book is going to fall. I was enraptured by this book from the second I picked it up. The writing is incredible as is the story- a fascinating history I learned about without even noticing it as I was so pulled into the plot. Despite being written so well one could call it "literary" it was exceptionally accessible. The author really writes New York well- hard to do- and has a gift for dialogue and humor. It has it all. HOUR OF THE CAT is shipping to me as I write this. Can't wait for another outing with Fintan Dunne.
silo-sill More than 1 year ago
I've read Quinn before (HOUR OF THE CAT & BANISHED CHILDREN OF EVE), but this is his best book yet. Fintan Dunne is back and better than ever. The book actually uses real sources of information to solve the disappearance of Judge Crater. Amazing and well written.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Really... ever- does for New York what Chandler did for LA.
HarryLimeofLeonardoNJ More than 1 year ago
I read Quinn's Hour of the Cat which was a very entertaining historical detective novel set in NYC in the 30s and was really looking forward to his take on the old Judge Crater disappearance. I was not disappointed. Quinn really evokes New York like no other writer. I won't spoil the ending but he does pull it all together in the end. It's a page turner!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I wouldn't recommend this book. One dimensional characters, some scenes, it seems, were unnecessarily drawn out, which made the story drag. For me the distraction of the misspelled words and the omission of other words spoiled the story..
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
My students read Ragtime and believed all that was written about real people. The problem with faction is that it becomes the truth in the popular culture. Quinn should have made this a novel and eliminated Judge Crater and his poor wife. Even so it is cumbersome to read and I would not recommend it.
KenCady More than 1 year ago
The mysterious disappearance of Judge Joseph Crater fascinates to this date. You won't find any answers in Peter Quinn's novel, but you will find a rather sloppy story encumbered by numerous mistakes. Even the cover jacket gets the date of the disappearance wrong. Quinn invents a story that is not without interest, but his tangents and lack of writing skills make it a bit of a slog. I liked it better than some of the other reviewers, as old New York interests me and Quinn gets a lot of that right. So take your chances, it may interest you.
NSALegal More than 1 year ago
A chore in its first hundred pages, disappointing in its conclusion, with far too many asides and didactic statements throughout, the story flickers occasionally with sporadic turns of phrase as well as some interesting clue placement. This reasonably noir-y mystery is worth one read-through, but not a return visit.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JohnnyFrancis More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this book, and read about the author's life-long interest in the disappearance of Judge Crater in The New York Times. Great atmosphere - New York in 1930 and 1955 - and wonderful writing. The last 100 pages are totally riveting - could not put this book down! Highly recommended!
RichardTofel More than 1 year ago
Peter Quinn is a terrific novelist. But is this the true story? To find out, read my book Vanishing Point: The Disappearance of Judge Crater and the Man He Left Behind