Operation Underworld is based on a true story about the underground partnership between the American government and the Mafia. This involves the sinking in February 1942 of the Normandie, the world’s most famous luxury liner. The premise of the book is excellent, and the idea exciting; however, it doesn’t work as a novel.
The first two chapters are backstory, and the main protagonist, the private investigator Mike ‘Doc’ McKeown, is not introduced until page 32. The use of dialect is distracting and makes reading difficult. This book is a strange mix of narrative prose, the sort you would find in a history book, and passages of dialogue that are well written but don’t move the story on. Kelly also has problems with point of view using a narrator, and then two or three other characters on the same page. This is not helpful to the narrative flow.
The action scenes are well done, but are not enough to carry the reader through the confusion of characters and lack of narrative thread.
A thriller must have a main protagonist through whose eyes we see the story unfold. However, Mike McKeown appears only briefly in the opening few chapters, and by that point it’s too late. It’s hard to follow what could have been a riveting story, when there are so many different names mentioned and almost as many points of view.
Operation Underworld is a good idea that fails to deliver. It is more faction than fiction, and there are too many characters, too much dialect, and not enough made of the private investigator. Not a book I’d recommend.