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January 28, 2014 / Leslie

Review: Top Down by Jim Lehrer

TopDownTop Down
by Jim Lehrer

Genre: Historical Fiction
Publisher: Random House
Publish Date: October 8, 2013
Format: Hardcover | 208 pages
Rating: 3 of 5

Publisher’s Synopsis:

November 22, 1963. As Air Force One touches down in Dallas, ambitious young newspaper reporter Jack Gilmore races to get the scoop on preparations for President Kennedy’s motorcade. Will the bubble top on the presidential limousine be up or down? Down, according to veteran Secret Service agent Van Walters. The decision to leave the top down and expose JFK to fire from above will weigh on Van’s conscience for decades. But will it also change the course of history?

My Thoughts:

Would a Plexiglas top on Kennedy’s limousine have provided enough protection to deflect Oswald’s bullets and save the president’s life? This is one of those ‘what-if’ questions that could haunt the person who made the decision, top up or top down? That fateful day in Dallas had started out rainy but when the skies cleared Secret Service agent Van Walters gave the orders to remove the bubble top from the limousine.

Five years later agent Van Walters has been so consumed by guilt that he has suffered a physical and mental breakdown and has lost the will to live. His daughter, Marti, contacts Jack Gilmore, a young reporter who was present when the decision was made to remove the top. Would he help her convince her father it was not his fault? Jack agrees, but at the same time he is thinking this will make a great story for the paper and provide a boost to his career. He promises their discussions would be off-the-record, but he is secretly writing pages and pages of notes with the hope of convincing her to change her mind.

With the 50th anniversary of the Kennedy assassination this past year, many new books both fiction and non-fiction have been written on the topic. For me the subject is as interesting as ever and when I read the description of this novel, I jumped at the chance to read it.

While this was a decent story and a quick, easy read, it was not the page-turning historical thriller described in the synopsis. The writing was straight forward and the prose sparse. I expect a little tension and some suspense in a thriller, but there was none of that here.

Also, I never formed a connection with any of the characters and their development was superficial. The opportunity to explore the subject of mental health and how the treatment has advanced was missed. Van Walters was mostly in the background. The story wrapped up quickly with the last chapter flash-forwarding to the present and a quick where-are-they-now type resolution. It was satisfying to know what became of them but ultimately I was expecting a little more depth from a novel by Jim Lehrer.

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Source: Review copy provided by Random House through LibraryThing.
© 2014 Under My Apple Tree. All rights reserved.
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11 Comments

Leave a Comment
  1. Diane@BibliophilebytheSea / Jan 28 2014 7:01 am

    I thought about this one, but overall the reviews have not been glowing:(

    Like

  2. Mystica / Jan 28 2014 9:04 am

    Maybe its just a recitation of the facts.

    Like

  3. Mary / Jan 28 2014 9:14 am

    Hmm, not a huge fan of “what If” fiction. Sorry it wasn’t a winner for you.

    Like

    • Leslie / Jan 29 2014 2:52 am

      I love the ‘what-if’ stuff but I’m afraid Stephen King’s excellent 11/22/63 ruined future Kennedy speculation books for me.

      Like

      • Mary / Jan 29 2014 3:02 pm

        That’s understandable 🙂

        Like

  4. sagustocox / Jan 28 2014 10:09 am

    Sounds like this one didn’t meet your expectations. That’s a bummer since it sounded so good.

    Like

    • Leslie / Jan 29 2014 2:49 am

      Considering the potential of the topic, it was a very light read. The type that’s good for a waiting room diversion or airplane reading.

      Like

  5. Sue / Jan 28 2014 5:39 pm

    Interesting topic, but underwhelming, I guess from your comments.

    Like

  6. Suko / Jan 28 2014 5:50 pm

    Leslie, thanks for your honest review.

    Like

  7. irene / Jan 28 2014 7:45 pm

    thanks for your review.

    Like

  8. stacybuckeye / Jan 30 2014 9:09 pm

    Well, all the Kennedy fiction can’t be great 🙂 I need to get to 11/22/63 this year.

    Like

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