Betrayal by Robert Fitzpatrick with Jon Land

BetrayalReviewed by Sam Millar

“You want a bullet in the head?”

Writers of fiction are always advised to make sure that the first line of their book hooks the reader into the story and hopefully keeps them there until the very end. The above first line in Jon Land’s mesmerizing new book, Betrayal, is as sharp a hook as one is likely to find in today’s modern crime stories. However, what makes the quote all the more salient is that Betrayal isn’t fiction, but the true tale of two men, Robert Fitzpatrick, one of the most celebrated FBI agents of his time, and James Joseph ‘Whitey’ Bulger, the feared head of South Boston’s Irish Winter Hill gang, of whom Martin Scorsese’s Oscar-winning The Departed was loosely based on.

In 1980, Fitzpatrick was assigned to Boston when his boss Roy McKinnon needed an Irishman to ‘kick ass and take names.’ The reason being that no one in the Boston Bureau seemed to be in control or have a clue when it came to taking down Bulger’s empire of criminality. At least that was Fitzpatrick’s initial belief. However, it wasn’t too long before he discovered something more sinister in the cupboards of officialdom other than writing pads and pens: skeletons, and plenty of them.

Most of the skeletons belonged to Bulger, in one way or another. So why the hell wasn’t the king of crime languishing in the local lock-up, awaiting trial, instead of sitting on his throne of ill-gotten gains? The more rocks Fitzpatrick looked under, the more startling the findings he made. Almost everyone, it seemed, was in the pockets of Bulger. Worse, they appeared to be turning blind eyes to all the alleged murders ordered or carried out by Bulger. Something would have to be done to stop him. Now, not tomorrow. But as Fitzpatrick was soon to discover, that was easier said than done…

Betrayal is Fitzpatrick’s story, his early life, his firm belief in the black and white of good and evil. His first encounter with the law was when he was just four years old, at home in New York. After one of the many arguments between his parents, a local cop, O’Rourke, decided enough was enough, and had the young Fitzpatrick placed in the care of social services, where he eventually ended up in Mount Loretto, the intimidating child care home on Staten Island. In Mount Loretto he would listen religiously on the radio to The Shadow, The Lone Ranger and especially This Is Your FBI, the latter – coupled with Officer O’Rourke’s tough love – would have enduring influence on his adult life, when he eventually joined his childhood heroes at the Bureau.

It’s to Mr. Land’s credit and professionalism that he does not drown out Fitzpatrick’s unique voice throughout the pages. This adds chilling authenticity to the compelling story, something lacking in most ‘partnered’ memoirs being published at the moment. Betrayal is a miles-apart transition for the acclaimed writer of the Caitlin Strong books, as he makes the brave leap from fiction to fact – not the easiest of leaps to make. Thankfully, Mr. Land’s leap of faith has him landing expertly and solidly on his feet with page-turning ease.

This is a brutal tale of loyalty, murder, corruption but ultimately betrayal. It’s about one man’s resolute determination to track down the FBI’s most wanted man since Osama bin Laden. Renowned Swiss psychiatrist, Carl Jung, in his timeless book, Answer to Job, depicted evil as the “dark side of God.” After reading Betrayal, you will have little doubt as to the dark side of men. An accomplished, complex, and absolutely compelling crime book, Betrayal is not to be missed.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.