This is a review of a new novel by author and CNN anchor Jake Tapper, The Devil May Dance. A sequel to Tapper’s 2018 bestseller, The Hellfire Club, this murder mystery/thriller brings back Congressman Charle Marder and his zoologist wife Margaret as the main characters. The book is set in 1962 takes the reader on an improbable journey spanning the United States and diving into some of the seedier elements of society ranging from Washington’s elite to the Hollywood glitterati and even the mafia.
After Charlie’s father lands himself in some trouble (again), Marder winds up accepting a curious assignment from none other than Bobby Kennedy. He’s tasked with investigating the ties between members of the Rat Pack (especially Frank Sinatra) and the mob. This unlikely scenario is facilitated by Charlie traveling to Hollywood on the pretense of being an on-set consultant during the filming of The Manchurian Candidate, bringing him into Sinatra’s inner circle. In settings ranging from a graveyard drinking party to nightclubs to Las Vegas, Tapper weaves together a host of real-life characters from the federal government, Hollywood, the music industry, and criminal empires. Charlie Marder winds up investigating far more than just any possible ties between ol’ Blue Eyes and the mob. There are dead bodies, missing persons, the trafficking of underage girls, and corruption to be rooted out.
As in the previous novel, Charlie Marder is an imperfect protagonist, with many of his own character flaws and shortcomings complicating his journey. The descriptions of the various famous personalities Charlie encounters and the settings where these interactions play out create a gripping atmosphere that quickly immersed me in the story. And as with any good mystery, the ending winds up being different than you probably expect, and far more complicated than a basic tale of good versus evil where the hero rides off triumphantly into the sunset.
If you liked Hellfire Club, you’re probably going to really enjoy The Devil May Dance. It comes out next week from Little, Brown and Company, and is available for pre-order now.