Kennedy's Brain
Henning Mankell
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Buy *Kennedy's Brain* by Henning Mankell online

Kennedy's Brain
Henning Mankell
336 pages
November 2008
rated 3 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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Kennedy's Brain is one big trip Ė literally. Imagine yourself in the shoes of a woman who has discovered that her sonís death and life were all an illusion, that the reality behind everything, life and death, is far from what she ever knew of him. What lengths would you go to meet the man that he grew into without your knowledge? How much would you endure to put his soul to rest?

Louise Cantor, home for a short stopover and eager to see her twenty-eight-year-old son, strides into his apartment and finds him dead, an apparent suicide. However, something isnít right. She knows suicide isnít an act he would ever have contemplated. In her despair, she incessantly mulls over the available facts and comes up with strings upon strings of questions. The only person who can help her unravel the mysteries behind her sonís life, and death, is her hermit of an ex-husband, Aron.

As they follow the proverbial bread crumb trail, terrible facts about their son begin to surface. As they dig deeper, traveling all over the world, danger begins to envelop them. Their son was into some mind-boggling situations, including the corruption of wealthy businessman and the actual illegal and inhumane use of live humans as test subjects for science and medicines. The deeper the rabbit hole gets, the nearer to death Louise Cantor finds herself. She can only hope that the truth will become known to the world before she is silenced forever.

It took me about a day after reading Kennedy's Brain to decide if I even liked it. Although the characters are realistic within their fictional lives, they aren't all that likeable. It's true that character likeability is not necessary for a good book, but it becomes difficult to maintain interest when they seem so hypocritical as to the moral war they fought and died for. In addition, for all the characters involved, and there are about two handfuls of them, only one handful seem to be absolutely unnecessary. The worst part is that these characters take up so much space in the playing out of the story.

Just about every sin in the Bible can be found lurking throughout the pages of this novel. While it makes the pieces fall together, they fail to engender that page-turning effect. Most of the narrative is repetitive, working hard to put the reader in the shoes of the protagonist who, in turn, is trying to put herself in the shoes of her dead son.

About a third of the novel is a challenge to get through for pure interestís sake. Flight upon flight litters the pages as Louise Cantor goes from Point A to Point B, Point B to Point C, Point C to Point B, only to turn around and go back. Most of the trips are absolutely useless in terms of justification for their inclusion or purpose.

On the plus side, the plot is a good one. For the lives they lead and the tangled web of deceit that fills the novel, the characters are well-crafted and entirely believable in their roles. Some surprises lurk around the corner, always good in this type of mystery. More surprises were likely supposed to be laced throughout, but some can be seen coming pages and pages prior to their realization.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Sonia R. Polinsky, 2009

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