Nate Heller is back in another solidly entertaining historical p.i. novel (really, two connected novellas), set this time during the McCarthy era. In book 1 it's 1953, and after seeing Dashiell Hammett testify before congress, Heller gets invited to lunch by the author, who wants to hire him on behalf of a group wanting to find evidence to clear Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, sentenced to die for passing atomic secrets to the dirty Reds. Hammett's group can't pay much, so Heller visits Joe McCarthy and Drew Pearson, who agree to pay him, too, if he'll pass them information. Heller doesn't like them much, and he particularly dislikes McCarthy's henchman, Roy Cohn, but he likes their money. Naturally there are people on all sides who'd prefer that Heller not find any evidence, so there's plenty of action, and some sex, too. Heller does turn up evidence, but he can't save the Rosenbergs. Not that Julius is entirely innocent.
Book 2 finds Heller involved with someone else who wants his help, someone much more attractive than Joe McCarthy -- Bettie Page. To help her out, however, Heller has to get McCarthy to use his influence, and while McCarthy agrees, he also hires Heller to find out what information the CIA has gathered on him. Sounds simple enough, but it's not, and Heller gets tangled up with the CIA and some terrible experiements with LSD-25.
One of the things that's so enjoyable about the Heller novels is the way Collins presents the historical characters. Collins's portraits of them are so convincing that it's like watching a documentary. McCarthy, Cohn, Estes Kefauver, Bettie Page, the Rosenbergs, and many others come alive on the page, where their goodness (or nastiness) is revealed though their talk and their actions. Speaking of which, there's no shortage of action, and there's no shortage of Heller telling people what he thinks of them or dishing out what they deserve in satisfying fashion.
Another thing that's always amazing is how well Collins can make real history fit into the story he's telling. His research is deep and impeccable, and even when Heller is speculating (particularly in the concluding pages), I want to believe. I have a feeling you will, too.
First-class entertainment, as always, and highly recommended.