Review: Top Down – Jim Lehrer

There is no moment in American history, besides the Salem Witch Trials, that interests me more than the assassination of JFK.

Today, it would be unheard of for a figurehead such as JFK to drive through the streets without some sort of protection from stray bullets, and yet back on Nov. 22, 1963 it was a whim decision with deadly consequences.

The assassination is one of those events you can ask the elders in your family where they were and they will remember.

Because of my lack of knowledge on the subject, and my appreciation for Indigo’s sale section, I picked up Top Down and chose it to be my last book of 2016 (mostly because it would bring my total of books read to 112, and also because it was only 208 pages).

What did I think of Top Down by Jim Lehrer? Keep on reading to find out my thoughts and opinions.

The Book

In a riveting novel rooted in one of American history’s great “what ifs,” Jim Lehrer tells the story of two men haunted by the events leading up to John F. Kennedy’s assassination.


November 22, 1963. As Air Force One touches down in Dallas, ambitious young newspaper reporter Jack Gilmore races to get the scoop on preparations for President Kennedy’s motorcade. Will the bubble top on the presidential limousine be up or down? Down, according to veteran Secret Service agent Van Walters. The decision to leave the top down and expose JFK to fire from above will weigh on Van’s conscience for decades. But will it also change the course of history?

Five years after the assassination, Jack gets an anguished phone call from Van’s daughter Marti. Van Walters is ravaged by guilt, so convinced that his actions led to JFK’s death that he has lost the will to live. In a desperate bid to deliver her father from his demons, Marti enlists Jack’s help in a risky reenactment designed to prove once and for all what would have happened had the bubble top stayed in place on that grim November day.

For Jack, it’s a chance to break a once-in-a-lifetime story that could make his career. But for Van the stakes are even higher. The outcome of a ballistics test conducted on the grounds of a secluded estate in upstate New York might just save his life—or push him over the edge.

A page-turning historical novel with the beating heart of a thriller, Top Down could only have sprung from the fertile imagination of Jim Lehrer. Drawing on his own experience as an eyewitness to the events described, one of America’s most respected journalists has crafted an engrossing story out of the emotional aftershocks of a national tragedy.

The Review

This book was exactly what I needed when I read it.


It was short, sweet, and to the point. Never deviating from its goal of having Jack and Marti test if having a bubble top up on the presidential limousine would have stopped Lee Harvey Oswald’s two bullets from killing JFK.

It was endearing that, even though a romance was introduced, Marti goal was always to absolve her father, Van Walters, from his guilt.

I also enjoyed reading of Jack’s struggle between getting his story and just helping someone when they needed help.

The writing on the other hand, specifically the pieces that didn’t deal with the history, felt almost basic. It was almost as if I was reading a middle-grade novel, rather than adult fiction.

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5 stars.

Purchase Links

Penguin Random HouseAmazon | Barnes & Noble | Indigo


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