Summary and book reviews of Jazz Bird by Craig Holden

Jazz Bird

By Craig Holden

Jazz Bird
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  • Hardcover: Dec 2001,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2003,
    400 pages.

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Book Summary

An exquisitely written novel of love and betrayal, of money and power, set at the apex of that time of glitz and innocence known as the Jazz Age

CINCINNATI, 1927...

Lawyer George Remus became the country's biggest bootlegger, grossing over $80 million until his arrest. Upon his release from prison, he learns that his beautiful wife, Imogene, has left him and that his bank accounts are empty. On the morning of their divorce, he runs her car off the road in the middle of rush hour in Eden Park and shoots her to death.

Shocked and fascinated by this horrible crime, the country gears up for a sensational trial pitting the man known as "the king of the bootleggers" against Chief Prosecutor Charlie Taft, the youngest son of the former president. The trial is a national spectacle, a lens focused on the fabulous rise and fall of the Remus empire and the tragic love story within it, and an attempt to answer some tantalizing questions: What actually happened to the fortune? What are the motives of the federal agent who brought Remus down? What complex emotions and desires, leading ultimately to the ruin of three men, really lie within the heart of the woman known as the Jazz Bird?

Based on a true story, The Jazz Bird is at once a love story, a crime novel, and the tale of the courtroom battle between two powerful men whose respective futures hang in the balance.

Prologue: Out of Eden

He found himself on the grass of a great dewy meadow surrounded by trees and violent outcroppings of rock and the high clear sky. It was October, he knew. It was 1927. The sharp air of the morning burned in his nostrils. He felt as if he had just awakened from a long and exhausting dream. Or been born. He breathed carefully and looked around and, realizing that he was alone, began to walk. The dew wetted his shoes.

Ahead, down a short slope, he saw a road they had driven many times. He came to it and stepped into it. A motorcar approached. He waved but it veered around him, its throaty electric horn blaring and distorting and fading as it went. The wind it generated whipped about him, spinning dirt into his eyes and chilling his wet feet and lower legs. He stepped back to the berm.

Other cars came. One finally slowed, and stopped. The driver leaned across. "Mr. Remus?" he said. "Is that you? Is everything all right?"

Remus got in. It was a Packard, ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Based on a true story, this deftly written novel by Holden (Four Corners of the Night) delves deep into the murk of the Jazz Age, blending mystery and history in a heady cocktail.

Kirkus Reviews

A consistently interesting fictionalized version of a real-life Jazz Age crime....A little long and a little slow, but with a Gatsby-like quality that lifts it way above the average.

Booklist - Bill Ott

A fine mix of history and romance, stylishly layered with noir sensibility.

Library Journal - Susan Clifford Braun

Reminiscent of E.L. Doctorow's Ragtime, this is an exceptional period piece that portrays the roller-coaster life of the Prohibition era with color, verve, and consistency. Holden's best work, it is highly recommended for all fiction collections.

Book Magazine - Chris Barsanti

Considering what a tawdry tale Holden has here, the book is awfully antiseptic. It's easy to read, but it's not the kind of novel you would recommend to anyone else or be likely to remember much of the next day.

The New York Times Book Review

Holden knows how to create a tight, high-velocity narrative and surprising characters, successfully combining these elements with some wild, over-the-top plot twists and a nightmarish, Hitchcockian sense of terror.

The Washington Post

Craig Holden writes like a dream.

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