Top critical review
More essay than non-fiction; a bit outdated
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on July 17, 2016
I'm a huge fan of Erik Larson, but this book (one of his earlier works) doesn't really line up with the type of storytelling for which he has come to be known. Based on books like Thunderstruck and Dead Wake, I expected Lethal Passage to tell two interwoven stories: One of the actions of Nicolas Brown, and one of the path his Cobray M-11/9 took before ending up in his hands. Both, I figured, would be exhaustive, enlightening, and generally compelling.
Instead, the book spends a few brief chapters exploring Brown's actions and devotes a massive number of words to what is essentially a persuasive essay about the problems with America's gun culture/gun laws. The narrative imbalance is jarring -- for example, a 60-page exploration of gun publications, the NRA, and the media, is sandwich between a 5-page and 12-page exploration of Nicolas's actions and their ramifications. Not much of a story to be told.
I don't particularly disagree with the assertions Larson has made here, but it's a far cry from his other works and leans much closer to the realm of long-form opinion/editorial than non-fiction exploration. Additionally (as others have said), the book is definitely dated -- it's hard to take too much meaningful information out of it given the way gun violence and gun culture have evolved over the 22 years since its publication. I almost wonder if the book is due for an update.
In the end I'd say it's a worthwhile read for those curious about how America's gun culture evolved through the late end of the 20th century or for Larson fans looking to check another work off the list, but would be hard-pressed to recommend it on its merits alone.