Hammurabi's Code

Charles Kenney, Author Simon & Schuster $21.5 (303p) ISBN 978-0-671-89697-3
Smart, tightly written and full of compelling background details, Kenney's debut earns a place near the head of the crime fiction pack. The story begins with the murder of Philip Stewart, Boston city councilman and a political icon with an unblemished reputation as a do-gooder for the down-and-out and the patron saint of a variety of liberal causes. When the Post calls on ace investigative reporter Frank Cronin to delve into the seemingly dead-end case, his efforts gradually reveal Stewart as a plaster saint whose dealings ranged from extortion to laundering mob money. The full extent of the corruption, however, isn't disclosed until the novel's shocking finale, which links police, press and politicians in a tangled web of urban payback and political retribution. Kenney, a Boston Globe reporter, makes splendid use of his insider's knowledge of the local political and journalistic scene to flesh out his plot and characters, while he sure-handedly uses flashbacks and occasional red herrings to build suspense. Despite minor shortcomings (the intrusion of stilted headline jargon, a mawkish subplot involving a rekindled romance), Kenney maintains a gripping level of tension; his mastery of the form marks him as a talent to watch. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/1995
Release date: 04/01/1995
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