Review by Booklist Review
In 1954, Marilyn Sheppard was bludgeoned to death in her bed in suburban Cleveland. Her husband, Dr. Sam Sheppard, who was sleeping in another room, claimed that he heard her screams, struggled with the intruder, but ultimately lost consciousness before he was able to summon help. The evidence against Sheppard in the subsequent prosecution was virtually all circumstantial, but the horrific nature of the crime and the sensational media coverage led to a quick conviction for second-degree murder. In the latest of Collins' long-running Nathan Heller series, in which the author offers alternate theories of famous crimes, PI Heller is asked, years later, by Elliot Ness of Untouchables fame to reexamine the case, after Sheppard's possible innocence is championed by Perry Mason author Erle Stanley Gardner. Heller will do the legwork while Gardner bankrolls the project. It's a wildly entertaining conceit in which Collins makes great use of real-life figures and some composites, including Flo Gilgore, based on reporter and What's My Line? panelist Dorothy Kilgallen. A must for fans of this long-running alternate-history series.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
MWA Grand Master Collins's Zelig-like PI, Nate Heller, who's tackled most of 20th-century America's greatest unsolved mysteries, gets involved in the Sam Sheppard murder case in his superior 17th outing (after 2016's Better Dead). When the Cleveland doctor reported having found his wife, Marilyn, bludgeoned to death in their bedroom in 1954, Heller happened to be in the city, spending time with his old friend Eliot Ness, who invited him along to the crime scene to help determine whether the killing was the work of the serial killer whom the two men had been chasing for years. The m.o. established that another murderer was responsible, but Heller noted multiple oddities, including the failure to preserve the crime scene and indications that Sheppard's family was covering up his guilt. The doctor was eventually convicted of the crime, a verdict many felt the evidence didn't support. Three years later, Perry Mason creator Erle Stanley Gardner asks Heller to reassess the case, a request that leads to a creative solution of the notorious mystery. This is a superior and inventive effort that shows the series still has plenty of life. Agent: Dominick Abel, Dominick Abel Literary. (Mar.)
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
Nathan Heller (Better Dead, 2016, etc.) broadens his portfolio of real-life investigations by reopening the Sam Sheppard murder case on behalf of two different clients who engage him nine years apart.Did the handsome osteopath and police doctor from suburban Ohio really kill his wife, Marilyn, in their bedroom while she was pregnant with their second child? Bay Village mayor Marsh Dodge, Cuyahoga County coroner Dr. Samuel Gerber, and Cleveland Press editor Louis Seltzer all think so, and county prosecutor Frank Cullitan has persuaded 12 jurors to agree. Three years after the 1954 murder, though, Erle Stanley Gardner, the creator of both the fictional Perry Mason and the real-life Court of Last Resort, wants Nate's A-1 Detective Agency to review the evidence. Nate's job isn't to exonerate Sheppard: "I'm just an unbiased investigator making sure justice was done," he assures Gerber. His inquiries, notable for their noncommittal thoroughness in scattering suspicion, end when a Florida inmate confesses to the murder, raising reasonable doubt for Nate and Gardner but not for the county, which refuses to reopen the case. So Sheppard continues to languish in prison, garnering a new German fiancee, until 1966, when his new defense attorney, F. Lee Bailey (one of the very few characters here to appear under his own name), engages Nate once more to review the evidence in search of new leads and ultimately succeeds in getting his conviction thrown out and a new trial ordered. Readers who peek ahead to the closing note by Collins (Girl Can't Help It, 2020, etc.), which acknowledges that "I changed my mind about the identity of the killer or killers half a dozen times during the research for this novel," will know better than to expect a definitive, or even a definitive-sounding, solution.A sober, bracing time machine, more fiction than history, that ends on an authentically inconclusive note. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.