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4.1 out of 5 stars24
4.1 out of 5 stars
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on 6 December 2001
KERR'S WWII-ERA Berlin Noir Trilogy is some of my favorite historical fiction, so I figured I'd give one of his more recent thrillers a chance. This one is set in 1960, mainly in Havana, Miami, New York, with side trips to Vegas and Chicago and takes place over the course of the Nixon/Kennedy election and the buildup to JFK's inauguration. Kerr weaves a fairly elaborate plot around the JFK assassination conspiracy mythos, involving a top assassin, the mob, Cuban intelligence, crooked CIA and FBI agents running amok, inept Secret Service, and a bevy of sexpots-all building up to an attempt to kill Kennedy prior to the inauguration. There are two major, major reversals (ie. unexpected plot twists), and many reviewers are inexplicably revealing the first of these in their summaries. I will not, but suffice to say, it's these two reversals that keep the pages turning. Of course, we all know what happened in Dallas, several years later, and Kerr manages to produce an ending to explain that as well.
Some reviewers have complained that since we know the assassination doesn't take place, there's no suspense. Personally, I found that creating and building the suspense in the face of such knowledge is Kerr's most impressive achievement in this case. Much like Frederick Forsyth's The Day of the Jackal, the reader is drawn into the world and methodology of the killer and those tracking him. Unfortunately, plot seems to be occurring at the expense of character. There's no one to really root for or care about, which is fine in some types of fiction, but doesn't usually work so well in thrillers. Not only is there no one to care about, there's scant characterization to begin with-the male characters all have the same tired tough-guy patter, and the women are exclusively characterized as sex objects (and not surprisingly, banal ones at that). Kerr's attention to cultural icons and detail, which was a wonderful element in his Berlin Noir trilogy, proves to be far less interesting when applied to America in the 1960s (perhaps because it is so much more familiar). When you combine these weaknesses with several linguistic anachronisms, and a total absence of the wonderful turns of phrase in his earlier work, you get the feeling this was a rather dashed off bit of fluff for Kerr.
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on 1 August 2000
Perhaps the worst Philip Kerr work so far. Tired, obvious and meretricious this is way below the standard of the Bernie Gunther/'Berlin Noir' sequence, and has none of the cerebrality of 'A Philosophical Investigation'. The ending is predictable, the characters two-dimensional and the peppering of 'insider' JFK Assassination jokes lame.
Even as a throwaway airport paperback this would be second-rate: for someone like Kerr, who at his best writes stylish and exciting prose, it's a sad waste of time and effort. There's a definite sense of a multi-book publisher's contract being completed on automatic pilot, by an author with all the obvious conspiracy theory books on one side of his keyboard, and Berlitz guides to NYC and Boston on the other. Buy Don DeLillo's 'Libra' or James Ellroy's 'American Tabloid' instead.
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on 20 April 2016
The Shot is a book I would recommend as far as entertainment goes, and there's a lot of it. But as far as plot structure and narrative, it's flabby, loose ended fluff with a disappointing ending - which I will not reveal. Kerr seems to skirt over the geo-political issues in favour of strong characterisations and a highly interesting and ambiguous title character (who ultimately shows himself to be less ambiguous in the final chapters), with a truly reprehensible supporting cast - the light dusting of political forecasting and satire is distracting. The novel was mainly let down because the narrative is loose and flabby, the suspense goes wide of the mark, and the plot structure is superfluous.

What isn't at all distracting is the overall quality of the writing and dialogue. Kerr has a keen ear for vernacular, and the descriptive scenes interlaced with historical references are fantastic, here is a writer of genuine quality with no delusions of pretentions and artsy aspirations - his concise style is easy, accessible and very good.

On the whole, this is well written, well told and excellently characterised fluff (with too many loose ends) - that loses focus in the interest of a poor ending that is trying way to hard to be satirical. Kerr needs to control his plotting, keep his focus and provide more of that excellent dialogue.
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on 22 June 2014
It’s fertile terrain: Anti-commie phobia, the Mafia and US political scheming when Castro seizes power in Cuba. Brilliantly exploiting these ingredients is the author who writes Nazi thrillers about Bernie Gunther (this isn’t one).
The revelations are intriguing in a work classed as fiction, and where private agendas fuel a plot inspired by history. Kerr’s dialogue and his character sketches expose not only mobsters of note but the dark side of the FBI, CIA and the Secret Service. The professional hitman, in contrast, has higher morals than them all. And this includes the Kennedy clan!
The end twist disappointed me (I won’t reveal it). After lovely double-cross and deadly deceit throughout, I found the reader was also taken for a ride. An enjoyable ride no less, but by tradition a literary no-no.
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on 2 August 2008
I got this book in audio version and loaded it onto my ipod for holiday listening. I had never heard of this author before and was more than slightly dubious about the book - WHAT A BIG MISTAKE ON MY PART - this is one of those books that comes along rarely that you can really get into and don't want to finish. The narration was superb and I was able to relax and get into the book very easily. There are several twists and turns but I am giving away no details except to say that the author certainly makes you feel that you are back in that era and location - never the less this book is an absolute must for all who enjoy a really good murder/thriller. Please either listen or read this.
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on 27 November 2012
A marvellous story about an assassination plan on JFK - BEFORE he became president. All sorts of dirty tricks from the usual suspects - CIA, FBI, the Mafia, anti Castro Cubans and Castro's intelligence service. Lots of false trails, twists and turns with a cast of characters almost all of whom are definitely not to be trusted and most of whom have blood on their hands. I've read all of Philip Kerr's Bernie Gunther books but this was a new one on me - and I'm glad I decided to get it. Highly recommended.

The Shot
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on 6 January 2000
I blasted through it in a few days. Good & complicated plot which goes lots of different ways(you know what the ending is but are curious to find out how & why). Am a sucker for the mixing of real figures with fiction. Many great "sequences", eg the "hit" during the Psycho screening. I also enjoyed the many intellectual & well-researched conceits (that I'm sure the author will deny).
If you like Ellroy and 60s-style, mafio-cubo-kennediana + a good crime-fiction thriller- this'll work for you.
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on 8 October 2007
I bought the book on a hunch and I was blown away. Great character depiction and a perfect story. Almost alternative history stuff. One of the best books I ever read. I wonder why Hollywood has not made a film of it? They have made dozens of junk films. Why not this? It would make the perfect movie. I strongly recommend the book.
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on 1 January 2008
Although I thought this started off fairly slowly, the plot/action/tension increases dramatically in part two of the story. As someone wrote previously, we know what happens at the end in real life, but I still was more than satisfied with the way this novel finished.
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on 22 March 2013
Great Philip Kerr story-As with most Philip Kerr novels ,one is under the impression that it really happened.Not all his non Bernie Gunther books are up to scratch but this one certainly is!
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