In 1933, America is at a crossroads: Prohibition will soon be history, organized crime is rampant, and President Roosevelt promises to combat the Great Depression with a New Deal. In these uncertain times, former-Pinkerton-detective-turned-bestselling-author Jake Donovan is beckoned home to Manhattan. He has made good money as the creator of dashing gumshoe Blackie Doyle, but the price of success was Laura Wilson, the woman he left behind. Now a Broadway star, Laura is engaged to a millionaire banker—and waltzing into a dangerous trap.
Before Jake can win Laura back, he’s nearly killed—and his former partner is shot dead—after a visit to the Yankee Club, a speakeasy dive in their old Queens neighborhood. Suddenly Jake and Laura are plunged into a conspiracy that runs afoul of gangsters, sweeping from New York’s private clubs to the halls of corporate power and to the White House itself. Brushing shoulders with the likes of Dashiell Hammett, Cole Porter, and Babe Ruth, Jake struggles to expose an inconspicuous organization hidden in plain sight, one determined to undermine the president and change the country forever.
Review: This was an intriguing story considering the time period – nine years before the attack on Pearl Harbor and the onset of World War II. Set during the Great Depression, you wouldn’t know it by this story. There’s money flowing and while there’s talk of ending prohibition, the booze is still hidden in speakeasies.
I have mixed feelings about the characters. Jake seems pretty straight forward – a former private detective visiting his old stomping grounds. But I think he’s a little too smooth for this character, a little too refined. I would have preferred him to have more of an edge, his personality more ‘hard boiled’, as they say.
I pretty much knew Laura was covering some secret when she first showed up in Mickey’s office, supposedly packing up some of Jake’s dead partner’s belongings. I saw through her right away, even though I didn’t figure out the angle until further along in the book. For her, I would have preferred that her secret was better kept, that I was kept guessing until much later.
One thing I truly liked was the use of the period slang such as doll and dish and swell. It made me feel as if I were watching an old movie. Considering the time period, I thought the book would have more a Noir feeling to it and it disappointed on that level. However, the storyline was good and kept me interested.
Now for the one thing I truly did not like (and don’t like in any book) – the incorporation of real life people into a fictional story. It’s one thing to mention a president or to have a famous baseball play autograph something, but to have fictional characters inspire true ideas – the lyrics for ‘Anything Goes’ by Cole Porter and main idea behind ‘The Childrens Hour’ by Lillian Hellman – is just going too far. I think the worst was throwing a football with a young John Kennedy and later thinking ‘Maybe I’d met a future president.’
Overall, The Yankee Club is a good mystery. How do the Greenwoody’s fit into the assassination attempt in Florida? How do the Nazis fit in to the mystery of the shooting of Jake’s old partner? And just who fired the gun that injured Jake and killed Mickey?
Favorite Quote: ‘I’m as clean as a new bar of soap.’