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Book News

'Mackerel' character a fishy guy

'Mackerel by Moonlight'
by William Weld

Simon & Schuster, $23

Review by L.D. Meagher

(CNN) -- There's something fishy about Terry Mullally. On paper, he looks like the embodiment of the American Dream: an orphan who worked his way through college and law school, a white collar crime specialist for the U.S. Attorney's office in Brooklyn, and a candidate for District Attorney in Boston. Nevertheless, his life is very different from what it appears to be.

Mullally seems to view everything in his life through a political lens. The protagonist of "Mackerel by Moonlight" is a political animal in every sense of the term. That shouldn't be too surprising because the author, William Weld, is former governor of Massachusetts.

When his father died, Mullally was befriended by a group of New York City cops. They took him places -- parks, museums -- and taught him how to hunt. They encouraged his study of law and greased the tracks for him to join the Brooklyn U.S. Attorney's office. They led him to the biggest case of his career, which was a police corruption scam involving payoffs by owners of gay bars. His friends also helped him cut a few corners, which cut short his career in the U.S. Attorney's office.

He lands at a Boston law firm. Nevertheless, private practice doesn't hold much interest for Terry Mullally. So when he's approached to run for DA, he's ready. He's a natural campaigner, eager to challenge the eleven-year incumbent.

He's also eager to learn more about Emma Gallaudette. She is also a lawyer, not to mention beautiful, socially connected, and very married. Her husband, an international financier who has some rather unsavory associates, is away on business. An affair is inevitable.

As he spins the tale of Mullally's climb up the political ladder, Weld tosses off a few zingers about Boston politics. There's the St. Patrick's Day breakfast, where politicians and wannabes try to score points at each other's expense.

First up was O'Reilly. He seemed to live with no other thought than to needle our Yankee Republican governor, Archibald Lovett, a/k/a "Mister Magoo," who had actually attended this event wearing a bow tie. "Isn't he a good sport?" O'Reilly would inquire, meaning, "Isn't he a loser?" The governor grinned sheepishly, as usual.

Weld obviously knows the Boston political terrain. He also knows the terrain outside the city, where the woods of New England harbor an exquisite variety of game animals. His descriptions of hunting trips are the most detailed scenes in the book. It's a shame he didn't illuminate the politics, or the love story, with the same level of detail.

Fundamentally, Terry Mullally is not a nice guy. It's hard to work up sympathy for a fellow whose ethics are as murky as the Charles River. As a prosecutor, he breaks the law. As a candidate, he delights in the dirtier aspects of politics. As a man, he doesn't think twice about having an affair with a married woman.

L.D. Meagher is a senior writer at CNN Headline News. He has worked in broadcasting for nearly 30 years.

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