Culture

Book Review - 'Fool's Errand' Delivers a High-Stakes Mafia Thriller Wrapped in a Tale of Fathers and Sons

A successful young New York ad exec loses his small-time mobster father in a car accident. Six years later, his mother hands him a box containing a cryptic letter from his late father. In the last words he’ll ever read from his departed father, the son finds a story hinting at some lost treasure from World War II. When Blackie, his father, often boasted about a “big deal” that would make him and the family rich beyond their dreams, no one really took him seriously. Perhaps they should have. And perhaps some things are just best left where they belong, in the past.

That letter sparks curiosity, some questionable choices, a conversation with a relative he’d do well not to trust to tell him the time, and an international adventure with a mysterious, beautiful woman.

And who is that man in gray who seems to be on his trail?

The son has done everything he can up to this point to avoid joining the “life” his father chose. But the letter and the questions it raises may force him to follow his father’s path just to find answers.

In Fool’s Errand, Jeffrey S. Stephens (creator and author of the Jordan Sandor series) spins a swift, tight yarn that brings it all, from war and post-war intrigue to mafia plots and politics, from New York Italian eateries to beaches on the Riviera.

This is saying quite a lot, as I tend to avoid mafia stories. Many of them follow patterns so familiar that to a great extent when you’ve seen or read one, you’ve more or less seen them all.

This is not the case with Fool’s Errand. Here, the mob intrigue drives the plot, but the story is really about fathers and sons. In this case, the son is only able to learn more about his imperfect father years after losing him. It’s about a father trying to take care of his family despite making more mistakes than most of us make in one lifetime. It’s about when those mistakes may not die with us. How the shadows a father casts can fall onto his son.

While Fool’s Errand brings elements of The Maltese Falcon (one of my all-time favorite films), Goodfellas, and even a dash of old-school detective thrillers and serial films, this tale is fully current. It’s a great read and a worthy weekend escape from real life. It doesn’t insult anyone’s beliefs or intelligence. It’s smart, it’s sharp, and it will make a strong movie in the right creative hands.

I picked up Fool’s Errand and read it through, cover to cover, in a day. Stephens’ prose is brisk and clean, to the point, and entertaining as it keeps you turning the pages. Fool’s Errand is a fun, satisfying read full of heart and surprises.

Bryan Preston is the author of Hubble’s Revelations: The Amazing Time Machine and Its Most Important Discoveries. He’s a writer, producer, veteran, author, and Texan.

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