2 of 3 people found the following review helpful:
May 1, 2003
Let me begin by saying this is a very entertaining book that kept me reading right up to the end. Having read both books, I'd say comparisons some draw to Michael Chabon's "Adventures of Kavalier & Klay" are apt and while I suggest reading both, Gold's book is better in that it is mercifully shorter and ventures a little less into the soap opera world of love triangles and such. You can't exactly finish "Carter" in one night, but the story doesn't lag a whole lot.
And because no book is perfect, let me go briefly into some problems I had. First, I really thought Gold glossed over the relationship between Carter and his first wife. It seemed like they got married and then the next time we see her, she's dead. I suppose the author didn't want to dwell on that to keep the book shorter and moving along, but since her death affected Carter a lot, it would have been nice to sell why he loved her so much a little more.
Maybe it's just me, but I didn't care about the Harding assassination subplot at all. The fight to get the rights/cover-up to television provided the necessary motivation for the Secret Service to try rubbing Carter out, so his involvement in the "assassination" seemed extraneous. Really no one in the book except Agent Griffin appears to care whether Carter had a hand in bumping off Harding, so unless it was historical fact, then the book could have been written without it.
Other than Carter, a lot of the other characters had a lot of depth. There's the fussy gay brother, the bumbling Agent Griffin, the macho Secret Service goons, and Mysterioso who comes off as a more evil Snidely Whiplash. Phoebe and Borax are really the only other more complicated characters in the book. By the way, did anyone else envision Frasier and Niles Crane whenever Carter and his brother were talking?
Since the book takes place in the 1920s, I can't vouch for its authenticity. I always wonder how those people who claim it's so realistic actually know. Either they have to be very old or they did a lot of research on the subject. But there were no glaring errors like in a certain recent Pulitzer Prize-winning novel I won't name.
Anyway, "Carter Beats the Devil" is a fun book with a lot of twists and turns. It's not a serious, philosophical book, but an engaging read with adventure, romance, and mystery, really everything a casual reader can ask for. I highly recommend giving it a look.