Mike Dash - Satan’s Circus (3 stars)

Mike Dash - Satan’s Circus

(Granta)

TRUE CRIME

‘Nearly five million men and women have served the United States as police officers. Only one has been executed for murder.’ There is little doubt that Charles Becker was more than just a bad apple, in an early 20th century New York City awash with corruption at every level. Should you have chosen to stand up to illegal police activity, you could end up, as one mother did, seeing your children locked up in an asylum. But was Becker powerful enough to order a hit? When struggling businessman Herman Rosenthal died in a hail of bullets, the evidence pointed straight at Becker whose ‘understanding’ with Rosenthal had hit the rocks.

Mike Dash performs an admirable feat in setting the scene; indeed, he takes over 170 pages to get close to the murderous moment. By that point you are almost willing Becker to receive his grisly comeuppance, even if there is a rogues’ gallery of equally likely suspects.

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