- - Monday, June 8, 2020

They say that the fruit seldom falls far from the tree. This was certainly true with the infamous Jeffrey Epstein, bogus billionaire, phoney philanthropist, suspected blackmailer, proven pedophile and supposed suicide. 

According to investigative journalists Alana Goodman and Daniel Halper, Jeffrey Epstein’s father, Seymour, “first held down construction work, where he demolished homes, before getting a more stable job with New York City’s Parks Department, where he picked up trash.” His son would spend most of his adult life collecting trash, too.

Admittedly, it was trash of a higher order: a veritable who’s who of grubby politicians, money-hungry artists, intellectuals and Eurotrash types, and the creme de la scum of Manhattan high society.

The dishonor roll of famous Epstein spongers and sycophants includes a former U.S. president (Bill Clinton), a now-disgraced royal (Queen Elizabeth’s second son, Prince Andrew, better known as Randy Andy) and the money-hungry daughter (Ghislaine Maxwell) of a crooked British tabloid publisher (Robert Maxwell), who would commit “suicide” under dubious circumstances nearly three decades before Epstein allegedly did so.

Ghislaine, at loose ends when it turned out that daddy had died both insolvent and an embezzler, did what many a hard-up Brit had done before her. She fled to New York, where an English accent and a certain distance from previous failures and disgraces lends enchantment. While playing the Manhattan social circuit for all it was worth, she met our hero, a shady “financier” with few social connections, no manners and vast aspirations to join the in crowd.

In its own sick way, theirs was a perfect match. First she became his lover and hostess. Then, when her sexual sell-by date expired, she pimped for him, recruiting dozens of teenage girls, some under the legal age of consent, to perform “massages” for Epstein and various influential acquaintances of his who may also have been blackmail targets.

The latter possibility is one of the few things that could explain the intricate network of hidden cameras Epstein planted in the many bedrooms and bathrooms of his various mansions and his own private island, where God only knows what went on, and even God would probably just as soon forget.

As the authors point out, after the details of Epstein’s depraved crimes started to go public, “his mysterious hold over some of the world’s most powerful men continued. He and Prince Andrew strolled together through Central Park, in full view of photographers” months after Epstein was released from house arrest for soliciting underage prostitutes.

He also “hosted former (Clinton) Treasury Secretary Larry Summers at his office and flew Bill Gates to Palm Beach on his Gulfstream Jet” and “dined with Katie Couric, George Stephanopoulos, Chelsea Handler, and Woody Allen at his twenty-one-thousand-square-foot Manhattan mansion.”

These are just a few of the famous names “caught up in a story driven by fraud, theft, and rape.” But, while Epstein’s death “exposed at least some of the dirty secrets of how wealth, politics, celebrity and the media enabled this predator to harm countless victims over the course of decades,” we can only guess at what other secrets Epstein still harbored at the time of his death, secrets that might “drive someone to drastic action in order to keep them hidden.”

According to the authors, “most who knew Epstein, whether they liked him, were violated by him, or simply had a business relationship with him, believe he was murdered.” Alana Goodman and Daniel Halper have done an outstanding job of tracking down and exploring all of the evidence, clues and likely explanations of a sordid life and even more sordid end.

The resulting dossier cannot conclusively prove Jeffrey Epstein was murdered in his New York jail cell, but it clearly and convincingly lays out the myriad of facts and circumstances that point in that direction: guards who skipped their inspection rounds and slept through what had to be a clumsy, noisy act of strangulation (whether suicide or murder), faked log entries, a hopelessly compromised death site, and the fact that Epstein, corrupt con man to the end, had been optimistically plotting an appeals strategy with his lawyers just before his death.

Not all of the evidence points in the same direction. Just days before the alleged suicide, he had written a new will. But it was more concerned with getting his remaining wealth offshore and out of reach of the U.S. authorities than it was with putting his mortal affairs in order.

Readers of “A Convenient Death” may not be convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Jeffrey Epstein was murdered. But they will definitely come away aware of compelling facts and unanswered questions that undermine the verdict of suicide.

• Aram Bakshian Jr., a former aide to Presidents Nixon, Ford and Reagan, has written widely on politics, history, gastronomy and the arts.

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By Alana Goodman and Daniel Halper

Sentinel, $27, 234 pages

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