In Hoffa's Shadow tells the story of how Goldsmith reunited with the stepfather he'd disowned and then set out to unravel one of the 20th century's most persistent mysteries and his stepfather's role in it.
... it’s fair to say that the last thing the world was itching for in 2019 was another speculative account of Hoffa’s final days. Which is precisely why Jack Goldsmith’s gripping hybrid of personal memoir and forensic procedural lands with the force of a sucker punch. More than just another writer chewing over the same old facts and hypotheses, Goldsmith turns out to have a uniquely intimate connection to the case that gooses him along on his hunt for the truth ... Goldsmith thankfully doesn’t write like a lawyer or an academic ... Goldsmith ends up tilling a lot of ground that will be familiar to Hoffa buffs. But his narrative is bolstered by the rare perspective of O’Brien — someone who was not only on the inside, but who also walked into many rooms during his life expecting to find a plastic tarp on the carpet. Unapologetic criminal behavior pours out of his mouth with a shocking nonchalance ... While Goldsmith does convince you of O’Brien’s innocence in the end, he never really does piece together what happened to Hoffa. Some frustrated readers may find this to be better for Goldsmith’s conscience than satisfying. Still, over the course of In Hoffa’s Shadow, Goldsmith’s quest becomes less about solving a mystery than a meditation on the complicated and occasionally bittersweet love between fathers and sons. It turns out that sometimes the search for truth can be its own reward.
Turns out Chuckie O’Brien is Goldsmith’s stepfather. Turns out that Jack Goldsmith was once Jack O’Brien until, as an adult, Goldsmith shed the name of his stepfather. Turns out, as well, that this brilliant mind of the American Bar is also deeply steeped in the history and operations of the Mafia.I was prepared to be informed by Goldsmith. He’s always worth reading on any topic on which he opines. But I wasn’t prepared to be transfixed by a D.C. 'backstory' unlike any out there ... Through Chuckie O’Brien’s and Goldsmith’s eyes, there’s an opportunity for some empathy and a lot of astonishment. This is a National Book Award nominee waiting to happen. And though Hoffa did not go gently into the night, his abrupt and final exit is as dark as any tragedy ... It’s hard to overstate how unlikely this story is, and similarly difficult to overestimate my certainty that readers from all backgrounds and across entire political and economic spectra won’t be able to put it down.
... a reckoning, as Mr. Goldsmith confronts his disloyalty toward his adoptive father, and also a meticulous reconstruction of 'the greatest mystery in American history' ... Unlike other researchers, he had unfettered access to Mr. O’Brien and conducted hundreds of hours of interviews ... contains a few minor errors—e.g., the 1972 Watergate break-in occurred at the office complex, not the hotel. But these deficiencies scarcely detract from what is otherwise a monumental achievement ... A few years ago, the Justice Department agreed to provide Mr. O’Brien with a letter of absolution, only to renege at the last minute. In Hoffa’s Shadow makes a fitting substitute.