The Devil May Dance (Charlie and Margaret Marder Mystery, 2)

Written by Jake Tapper
Review by K. M. Sandrick

U.S. Congressman Charlie Marder and his wife, zoologist Dr. Margaret, share sips of Jack Daniel’s as they bemoan the passing of Salvatore “Lucky” Luciano at a Forest Lawn gravesite in Glendale, California, with Frank Sinatra and members of his Rat Pack in 1962. The pair has been enlisted by Attorney General Bobby Kennedy to use their connections in Hollywood and find out exactly what kind of favor Sam “Momo” Giancana wants Sinatra to get from his friends, President Jack Kennedy and his father, Joe.

The Marders soon become entangled in murder when they open the trunk of their rental car and find the body of a young woman, shot through the eyes. They soon learn of a similar murder – actor and Sinatra rival Chris Powell, the victim of a presumed Mob hit, also shot through the eyes.

The Devil May Dance is the second in the Charlie and Margaret Marder series of historical thrillers. The first, The Hellfire Club, was published in 2018.

The story provides an intimate look at film stars, hangers-on, and the Hollywood press. Tidbits of information dish on the likes of John Wayne, Rock Hudson, songwriter Jimmy van Heusen, Lauren Bacall, and Rat Packers Sammy Davis Jr., Peter Lawford, and Dean Martin. Scenes are often tense and spiteful, and dialogue is sleazy, crude, and debasing. Whether or not the depiction is historically accurate, the net effect is an extended immersion into the seamy side of life. Action and plotting are not strong enough on the thriller side to lift or lighten the mood. There is little dancing in this Devil.