This is one of the most readable and fascinating biographies ever written--a story of how an ordinary American rose to great heights. But one feels it isn't quite the whole story. I don't think McCullough gets to the heart of Truman's peculiar relationship with Tom Pendergast. Although Truman clearly was not corrupt, he cannot possibly been so naive as to be ignorant of the workings of the Democrat's big city machines. When Truman was in control of awarding the contracts for paving the roads of Jackson county, he put a stop to blatant cheating by contractors who laid a mere 'pie crust' of concrete that quickly broke up. But since Tom Pendergast owned the local ready-mix concrete company, Truman's honesty meant big profits for him. McCullough doesn't seem to have made this connection, but I would be very surprised if Truman didn't.
McCullough's lack of economic acumen would be fatal if this were history rather than biography, but it still leaves some troubling gaps. Although he rightly eschews analysing the New Deal (or Truman's Fair Deal), which is a subject in itself, we are left none the wiser as to how the United States pulled out of the post-war slump so quickly--nor are we told whether the Truman administration's measures contributed to this recovery. We are not even given the the broad outlines of the Marshall Plan.
Still, these are quibbles, for after all, this is a biography, and a first-rate one at that. Sympathetic as it is, it stops well short of being a hagiography. Nonetheless, it certainly has contributed to the growing consensus that Truman was the last great American President.