Hard-boiled Valentine

The Man Who Never Returned
Peter Quinn
The Overlook Press, $24.95, 333 pp.

Not very many pages into Peter Quinn’s latest mystery I began to fantasize about who might play its flawed hero, Fintan Dunne, in the movie version. Alas, William Powell is dead, and no other names came to mind. The book is a real thriller, a nicely hard-boiled valentine to New York City that would make a great movie. Quinn uses his gifts as a historian and novelist to explore the unsolved disappearance of Judge Joseph Crater in August 1930, a mystery that haunted America during the Great Depression. His name became a household word, and his disappearance continued as a frequent subject of jokes and speculation well into the 1950s. Crater, a brilliant jurist, became the poster boy for the sewer of big-city politics. He was corrupt, an insatiable lecher, and a dangerous enemy. His disappearance was variously thought to be the work of the Mafia, an enraged husband, his own wife, or nervous Tammany politicians seeking to remove a possible source of embarrassment to the presidential aspirations of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Fintan Dunne made his first appearance in Quinn’s novel Hour of the Cat. In 1955, when we meet up with him in The Man Who Never Returned, he has sold his private-detective agency to a huge conglomerate and is comfortably retired in Florida. Dunne is ex-NYPD, a combat veteran of WWII, and a former OSS operative. He is also bored, and ripe fruit for...

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About the Author

Lauretta O’Connor, Commonweal's former office manager, lives in Fairfield, Connecticut.