Fall: The Mysterious Life and Death of Robert Maxwell, Britain’s Most Notorious Media Baron

Harper. Feb. 2021. 384p. ISBN 9780062997494. $28.99. CRIME
Journalist Preston (A Very English Scandal) seeks to understand Robert Maxwell’s (1923–91) meteoric rise and scandalous fall. Maxwell escaped German-occupied Czechoslovakia and fled to France, became a medal-earning World War II hero and publisher, and served as a member of Parliament in the United Kingdom. Though dogged by rumors of fraud, he nevertheless expanded his empire, which culminated in his 1991 purchase of the New York Daily News. To great fanfare, Maxwell arrived in New York harbor in his yacht and publicly addressed the city. Less than a year later, while sailing on that yacht in the Canary Islands, Maxwell was found dead in the water. The unscrupulous nature of his business dealings was illuminated, deepening the mystery of his demise. Preston paints an engaging, balanced portrait, chronicling the lingering impact of the notorious businessman’s death on his family, including daughter Ghislaine Maxwell. Theories ranging from suicide to a KGB hit are posited, but the author notes that investigators may never determine the cause of death.
VERDICT Preston’s prose is compelling, and the mystery of this larger-than-life figure is perplexing
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