Book Review: The Blacklist: Elizabeth Keen’s Dossier by Tara Bennett and Paul Terry

Now in its third season, The Blacklist, which stars James Spader as Raymond Reddington, a former Navy Officer turned super criminal turned FBI informant, is one of the more riveting dramas on television, network or otherwise. The premise of the show is that Reddington willingly hands over a list of the worst of the worst criminals — the blacklisters — in exchange for immunity from prosecution. The catch is that he will only work with Elizabeth Keen (Megan Boone), a young agent who may or may not be his daughter.

Keen keeps a detailed dossier of all the blacklist members, as well as her FBI coworkers, her ex-husband-now-boyfriend Tom Keen, and all their connections to each other. Coauthored by Tara Bennett and Paul Terry, who coauthored similar books about Lost, Fringe, and Sleepy Hollow, among others, The Blacklist: Elizabeth Keen’s Dossier attempts to recreate these files and makes an excellent companion piece to the show.

The book is divided into four sections: “The FBI,” “The Blacklist,” “Connections,” and “Tom Keen.” It starts, however, with an introduction to Reddington and his associates, complete with Keen’s notes about all of them. The attention to detail here is excellent. For instance, Reddington is listed as being born on February 7, 1960, the same day as Spader. “The FBI” section includes bios of all of Keen’s coworkers, with replicas of their personnel records reprinted, with certain information blacked out to give the appearance that it is classified or redacted. The section includes comments from Keen and still images from the show.

“The Blacklist” chapter is similarly detailed. The series is known for showing many documents and images of the blacklisters the FBI is trying to catch, but they only stay on screen a few seconds at most. Here, fans can read detailed information about each of them — and there are many. The files give the real names, along with their aliases. On the show, each blacklister has an alias. For example, Ranko Sinisa Zamani, a terrorist involved in a 1986 attack on a U.S. Embassy in Damascus, Syria, is known as The Serbian Ghost or Sacha M. Chacko. The chapter has Keen’s notes and details Reddington’s objective with each one of these criminals whose names he supplied to the FBI.

While not as large, the “Connections” chapter shows how many of the blacklisters are related and the attention the detail the show puts into making many of the criminals all part of a bigger picture. Keen organized the section in six categories: “Berlin,” “Tom,” “Reddington (Personal),” “Reddington (Business),” “The Cabal,” and “Unknown Connections.” These connections are color coded in the text, making it clear who is related to who and how.

The final chapter is dedicated to Tom Keen. Fans of the show will know that Elizabeth Keen was married to Tom, but it fell apart when she discovered Tom’s criminal history and that the marriage was sham from day one. Then Tom did what he wasn’t supposed to do and fell in love with Elizabeth anyhow, which is where the show is at now. This chapter does a good job of showing the up-and-down nature of their relationship, with many detailed photos and notes. An addendum of sorts, about Elizabeth Keen’s mother, Katarina Rostova, is included, complete with the washed-out Polaroid photo of her and a young Elizabeth that has been shown on the show numerous times.

The Blacklist is a smart, highly detailed show that has been renewed for a fourth season. For fans who like to go behind the scenes and find out all the pertinent details of the show’s many varied characters, The Blacklist: Elizabeth Keen’s Dossier is a welcome companion to their viewing experience.

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