Review: Three Bullets – R.J. Ellory

My version: Hardback
Genre: Historical Fiction, USA, JFK, RFK
Orion Books
First published: 2019
ISBN: 978-1-4091-8778-3
Pages: 390
, signed

From the cover:
It was the shot heard around the world.
22nd November 1963. On a glorious Friday afternoon in Dallas, Texas, President John F. Kennedy’s motorcade cruised through Dealey Plaza en route to a landslide victory and a second term in office.
But what if it missed?
In Washington D.C., photojournalist Mitch Newman’s phone rings for the first time in months. A voice he hasn’t heard in years tells him his former fiancée Jean has taken her own life.
When the truth is beyond belief.
Jean was an investigative reporter working a top-secret case of a lifetime. Somewhere in the shreds of her investigation is the truth behind her death.
How would you know if you found it?
Piecing together the clues will become a dangerous obsession: one that will lead Mitch to the dark heart of his country – and into the crossfire of a conspiracy…

I’ve got to admit I am a sucker for books on the Kennedy assassination, as long-time readers of the blog might have guessed already. Well, while this looks as if it is going to be about the assassination – three bullets – it isn’t. Quite.

What it is is a ‘what if…?’ kind of book. The story revolves around the main character Mitch returning to his hometown after leaving his then fiancé to go off against her wishes and report on the Korean war. We’re now a long time, years, after that and Mitch hasn’t ever got over his ‘mistake’ (he returned to the US a matter of months after leaving) and Jean moved on and didn’t want to see him. Didn’t return any of the letters he wrote while in Korea, or since. She hasn’t returned any of Mitch’s efforts to contact her. Then she has committed suicide.

Mitch’s heartbreak over the missed and lost opportunity, the regret and the just not knowing at the way his life could have gone and what he may, or may not, have done to Jean, is in itself, absolutely heartbreaking to read. The feelings, the emotional turmoil and misery Mitch goes through, is perfectly written and affected me an awful lot more than I’m going to admit to you here. Powerful, poignant regret for something that was just out of reach, snatched away and now will never happen, no matter how much he wishes it could. Just one more day with her. Just one word, one nod of the head would have changed everything.

Mitch gradually, while never really coming past his grief get first the inkling that all is not as it seems with Jean’s suicide, and later gets more solid ‘proof.’ that it is so. He becomes tangled up in the Kennedy reelection campaign, a force that will not stop. That will not be stopped, even if Kennedy himself seems to be intent on derailing it.

Yes, the assassination and Oswald and Ruby come into it, but absolutely not in the way I thought it would. It is a beautifully written book, based – as my extensive readings down the years have shown – on the facts of the case, the time, and the personality of the non-fictional characters. Far from being disappointed that it wasn’t going to be an explosive final uncovering of who was on the Grassy Knoll (etc), I was absolutely, wonderfully, surprised by a beautifully, powerful, well-written and fascinating book.

You can buy Three Bullets from The Book Depository

Photo of JFK by History in HD on Unsplash

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