Saturday, September 21, 2013

Review: The Big Crowd by Kevin Baker

Title: The Big Crowd
Author: Kevin Baker
Format: ARC
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publish Date: September 17, 2013
Source: I received a copy from the publisher; however, this did not affect my review.

Why You're Reading This Book:

  • You're a historical fiction fan.
  • You like great settings.
What's the Story?:

From "Based on one of the great unsolved murders in mob history, and the rise-and-fall of a real-life hero, The Big Crowd tells the sweeping story of Charlie O’Kane. He is the American dream come to life, a poor Irish immigrant who worked his way up from beat cop to mayor of New York at the city’s dazzling, post-war zenith. Famous, powerful, and married to a glamorous fashion model, he is looked up to by millions, including his younger brother, Tom. So when Charlie is accused of abetting a shocking mob murder, Tom sets out to clear his brother’s name while hiding a secret of his own.

The charges against Charlie stem from his days as a crusading Brooklyn DA, when he sent the notorious killers of Murder, Inc., to the chair—only to let a vital witness go flying out a window while under police guard. Now, out of office, Charlie lives in a shoddy, Mexico City tourist hotel, eaten up with regrets and afraid he will be indicted for murder if he returns to the U.S. To uncover what really happened, Tom must confront stunning truths about his brother, himself, and the secret workings of the great city he loves.

Moving from the Brooklyn waterfront to city hall, from the battlefields of World War II to the beaches of Acapulco, to the glamorous nightclubs of postwar New York, The Big Crowd is filled with historical powerbrokers and gangsters, celebrities and socialites, scheming cardinals and battling, dockside priests. But ultimately it is a brilliantly imagined, distinctly American story of the bonds and betrayals of brotherhood."

My Two Cents:

"The Big Crowd" is a story of crime and family. This big, sweeping novel takes place in New York City and Mexico. Based on the story of infamous New York City mayor, William O'Dwyer, who was the 100th mayor of NYC in the middle of the 20th century. O'Dwyer became involved in some unsavory activities (read: all sorts of mob activity) and was forced to resign. This book follows a fictional version of O'Dwyer, an Irish immigrant named Charlie and his brother, Tom. Historical fiction lovers will enjoy this book, which gives a really interesting picture of the politics of one of America's great cities during the mid-20th century.

I really enjoyed this book for the settings. New York City is always going to be one of my favorite places in the world. I really thought the author did a great job of capturing the essence of the city. I also really liked the parts that took place in Mexico. In college, I actually studied abroad in Cuernavaca, which makes an appearance in the book. Charlie becomes the U.S. ambassador to Mexico and seems to be very well known and well loved by the people of Mexico. I also thought the depictions of Mexico City were absolutely fascinating as well.

In this book, Tom is trying to put together the story of what happened to his super successful brother. Although the events in the book were fodder for the greater world, there is still an element surrounding the deep relationship between siblings. There is also the added conflict that Tom is having an affair with Charlie's wife. I really liked this story. There were some parts that I thought could have been slimmed down but overall, this book held my attention.

What I say next didn't affect my view of the book but I did find myself wondering why the author chose to make up characters rather than using William O'Dwyer as an actual character in the book. It was really interesting to me.

Overall, I enjoyed this book.



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