cover image The Devil Himself

The Devil Himself

Eric Dezenhall. St. Martin's/Dunne, $25.99 (304p) ISBN 978-0-312-66882-2

Dezenhall's breezy fifth crime novel narrated by Jonah Eastman, last seen in 2006's Spinning Dixie, finds the pollster working as a college intern in Ronald Reagan's White House in 1982. In the wake of several Islamic terrorist outrages, Eastman's boss, Tom Simmons, wants to take advantage of Eastman's close relationship with Meyer Lansky, the notorious Jewish gangster, to get the "real" account of the role the Mafia played in defending American interests during WWII, both on the New York City waterfront and in Italy. Simmons thinks that the model used then by the U.S. government%E2%80%94to get in bed with the devil to fight the Nazis%E2%80%94can be replicated in the nascent effort against Muslim extremists. Lansky shares his reminiscences with Eastman, who won't charm everyone with comments like: "I've always felt the biggest crime within Hitler's Holocaust was depriving civilization of millions of Jewish grandmothers." The benign light in which the author casts Lansky, who helped consolidate La Cosa Nostra's influence in the U.S., may trouble others. (July)