‘The Talk Show Murders’

There are things in your past that are just best forgotten.

Oh, sure, they might have been mere youthful indiscretions, things that others would brush away but that are endlessly mortifying to you. They make you cringe, they make you blush, keep your mouth shut, or avoid certain places or people.


They might have even been illegal.

Upholding his reputation, Chef Billy Blessing was careful to hide embarrassments, too; so careful that few knew he’d spent time in prison. But in the new book “The Talk Show Murders” by Al Roker and Dick Lochte, Blessing’s secret past was no blessing.

Edward “Pat” Patton was a jerk.

A former cop with shady renown, Patton was known around Chicago as a man who stirred up trouble. As long-winded as the city he lived in, Patton claimed to know things that the Chicago Police Department didn’t, beginning with the identity of the headless body that washed up on Oak Street Beach.

Chef Billy Blessing, in town for an interview, had an encounter with Patton on-set and disliked him immediately. Blessing liked him even less when Patton mentioned that Blessing’s face was familiar…

Years ago, before becoming a Chef, TV host, and writer, Billy Blessing was known as Billy Blanchard. And on April 19, 1986, Billy Blanchard was arrested for fraud and went to prison.

It was a secret that Blessing had buried, hoping it would stay that way.

But Patton was a big-mouth who wanted Blessing to pay to keep that big mouth shut. Patton hinted that underworld crime was looking for one “Billy Blanchard,” and that fifty grand might keep Blessing alive.

And then Pat Patton was found beaten to death, as was a young man who was thinly connected to Patton. Missing was a certain red folder that, according to Patton, held copies of Blessing’s past.

The deaths of two men who knew too much might have come as a relief to Chef Billy Blessing… until someone decided that they wanted Blessing dead, too.

I’m normally not a big fan of novels with an overabundance of characters. I find it annoying when I need a chart to keep track of what’s going on. But in the case of “The Talk Show Murders,” the large cast of characters actually works.

Author and TV personality Al Roker packs the people into this whodunit, but his real-life work lends an air of authenticity to this tangled crime novel, an authenticity that’s furthered by crime- and co-writer Dick Lochte.

If this is your first Billy Blessing novel, that’s okay. Read on, then go find the others. For fans old and new, “The Talk Show Murders” is a book not to be passed.

(“The Talk Show Murders” by Al Roker and Dick Lochte, c.2011, Delacorte Press, $26/ $30 Canada, 290 pages.)

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