Jelly’s Gold Review
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Around the turn of the 20th century, St. Paul, Minnesota, served as an “open city,” a safe haven for the mob. As long as an amount was paid and no trouble was caused within city limits, the politicians, police, and even the citizens would turn a blind eye as to who strolled into their city. This included notorious gangsters such as John Dillinger, the Barker clan, Bugsy Siegel, and Frank “Jelly” Nash.

In June of 1933, Frank Nash masterminded the theft of thirty-two bars of gold bullion from Farmers & Merchants Bank in South Dakota. Twelve hours later, he and his wife arrived in St. Paul to cool off, as they could party and be as visible as they wanted to be without fearing any repercussions. The two left the next day, and Nash was grabbed by the Feds—not for the heist, but for escaping from Leavenworth. En route back to prison, he was killed in what was to be known as the infamous Kansas City Massacre.

So why all the interest now, over seventy years later? The gold, estimated to be worth close to $9 million today, was never recovered, and Rushmore McKenzie, former member of the St. Paul PD is determined to find it. Actually, graduate students Ivy Flynn and Josh Berglund learn of the gold theft and enlist McKenzie’s help in exchange for giving him a cut. McKenzie soon learns that the three of them aren’t the only ones who know about the gold, and, more importantly, they aren’t the only ones intent on recovering it.

Though Jelly’s Gold is fiction, Frank “Jelly” Nash and St. Paul’s early protection of the mob are not. Author David Housewright successfully combines an intriguing current-day story with his thorough research of corruption in his hometown of St. Paul. He manages to create a number of complex characters, weaving them into an exciting novel that includes murder, deception, and the exposure of family secrets.

The story continuously flashes back to the early 1930s, as Mc Kenzie tries to reconstruct Nash’s movements in order to figure out where he stashed the gold. As this is done, we get a vivid sense of how life was in 1930s St. Paul. We also learn how the corruption came about and how it eventually collapsed thirty-five years later. Along the way, there are numerous players and lots of twists and turns, but not so many that you lose track of the story.

Jelly’s Gold is a fascinating novel that will not only keep you engrossed in the story, but it may also prompt you to do your own research of this notorious period in American history.

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