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The Enemy Within by Kristine Kathryn Rusch
Review by Bill Lawhorn
WMG Publishing Hardcover  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780615906270
Date: 01 April 2014

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

J. Edgar Hoover maintained power through knowledge. He created the FBI and searched for enemies of the U.S. His files were legendary. He used those files as leverage that protected him from others that would see him fall. He continued to head the FBI until his death in 1972, but what if he had died a decade earlier? Kristine Kathryn Rusch explores such a world.

Seamus O'Reilly likes the night shift, because it is quiet. A few weeks after the Kennedy assassination, the quiet is disrupted. He is called to the scene of a murder of a pair of men leaving a notorious address. When it turns out to be Hoover, he knows he is going to be busy.

Frank Bryce is on the downslide. His marriage is over. His FBI career, once promising, now languishes and only continues because of his prior record. His inherited apartment puts him close to the scene of the murder. He gets the call and is told to close it down. His director doesn't expect much, but this is just the opportunity that Frank needs. But the NYPD rightly claims jurisdiction.

In D.C., as word slowly spreads of the Director's death, the plans Hoover put in place start. Robert Kennedy has been suffering since Jack' death. When he hears that Hoover died, he rushes to the Justice department to see if he can take control of Hoover's secret files. He isn't part of Hoover's plans, and he isn't the only one who wants to get into the file. He may have an opportunity to take control of his own future.

The main action of the story is a murder mystery. It is set in an alternate universe that is created by the events that lead to and include the murder of Hoover. The butterflies come quickly as the news filters out and the main characters take charge. Fans of both mysteries and alternate history will find something here to enjoy.

This standalone novel is an expansion of a short story by Rusch, but readers do not need to view the earlier work to enjoy this work. The main action focuses on O'Reilly, Bryce, and Kennedy as they try to find the killer and make sense of the fallout. The killer also has a point of view. His motives come out as he struggles to have things work out the way he planned.

I really enjoyed the story. I've only read a few short stories by Rusch, but I don't regret taking a chance on this longer piece. I knew a little about the sixties and Hoover, but this is a nice little dip into the time period where the nation was scarred by the death of a president. As I read, I was reminded a bit of The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon -- more for the detective story than for any similarity between the two timelines. They were both entertaining and well written.

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