cover image The Spider: Inside the Criminal Web of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell

The Spider: Inside the Criminal Web of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell

Barry Levine. Crown, $28 (384p) ISBN 978-0-593-23718-2

Investigative reporter Levine (All the President’s Women: Donald Trump and the Making of a Predator) provides a thorough if largely unrevelatory survey of the criminal career of Jeffrey Epstein (1953–2019) and who he calls Epstein’s main accomplice, Ghislaine Maxwell. He begins with Epstein’s childhood in Coney Island before covering Epstein’s rapid rise in the world of finance, which led to him becoming fabulously wealthy and an associate of celebrities including Donald Trump, Bill Clinton, and Prince Andrew. Levine details Epstein’s endemic child abuse and Maxwell’s alleged role in procuring underage girls for his sexual needs. Epstein was charged with various sex crimes in Florida, but was given a sweetheart plea deal in 2008 by U.S. attorney Alex Acosta that allowed him to avoid a lengthy prison sentence; Levine’s analysis makes clear that Epstein’s 2019 arrest for the sex trafficking of minors may not have happened had President Trump not nominated Acosta as labor secretary, a choice that put the plea deal under the microscope. While there are a few new tidbits, such as Epstein, who hanged himself in jail awaiting trial, having been on suicide watch, the arc of the narrative will be familiar to anyone who has followed the story. Major questions about Epstein’s long run as a sexual predator remain unanswered, including why his powerful enablers justified sticking by him, even after his 2019 arrest. Maxwell’s upcoming trial is expected to provide further revelations about her dealings with Epstein, leaving a definitive look at the full sweep of Epstein’s crimes for a future book. Agent: Lisa Leshne, Leshne Agency. (Oct.)