Publication Date: June 6, 2017
In Knoll: The Last JFK Conspiracist by Stephen Hillard, the lawyer Bus McIntyre digs into the past of his murdered father, he uncovers a dangerous secret. At the same time, a protege of Edward Snowdon discovers that a project purporting to look for new information in the assassination of JFK is actually identifying people with new information and eliminating them. Is Bus the next victim? I received a copy of this novel in exchange for my review.
The public persona of Project Knoll is to find new information that would either prove or disprove the narrative of Lee Harvey Oswald as a solo killer of John F. Kennedy on November 22, 1963. Banner McCoy, an NSA analyst, discovers the true goal of the project, to eliminate anyone that might have real information to disprove the approved narrative. When we meet Banner, she’s fleeing and letting readers know that the knowledge she’s uncovered is of such weight that she will likely be killed if located. Hillard establishes off the bat that this is a high-stakes thriller.
Bus McIntyre is a Vietnam Vet and small-town lawyer with bigger ambitions who is haunted by the murder of his father. He’s searching for his father’s killer when he comes across information that leads him down an unexpected path. Hillard’s shift into history is smooth and his characters, including an aging hitman, are well planned and purposeful. Hillard gives his world context so that the connections between characters are logical and realistic while maintaining an urgency and purpose despite involving a historic, world-changing event. Project Knoll is a conspiracy that lives and in its life could leave even those not sure of what they have with deadly consequences. The journal left by Bus’s father gives the reader and his son a perspective unsuspected on his father. How well do we really know the people we love the most?
Hillard’s writing style is lyrical and polished. His narrative style allows the suspense to build. Shifting locales are described with a deft hand and characters are introduced that add to the narrative whether by way of expanding the story or serving as a misdirection. That the narrative is shifting and in the first person did take some adjustment. The shifts are well marked and the voices unique so that there’s no confusion, but it is a difficult adjustment as it’s an unusual pattern for any genre.
Hillard’s presentation of JFK’s assassination is well researched and his links to the event are plausible. It’s long been thought that Oswald did not act alone and historians the world over would be dead if a plan like Project Knoll actually existed but Hillard gives us a world where it could happen. Knoll is a wonderful thriller. If you’re looking for a summer read to take on vacation, pick it up today.
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