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Posts Tagged ‘political thriller’

The Candidate by Lis Wiehl

Lis Wiehl is a an attorney, faculty member at the University of Washington School of Law, and a legal analyst for Fox News.  She has several successful novel series.  “The Candidate” is the second in the “Newsmakers Novels” series with protagonist, Erica Sparks, a cable news network anchor.  The subject matter is chillingly appropriate in this presidential political season.  In fact, the only political campaign more strange than the one that is being played out this year for real, is the plot that Lis Wiehl weaves in “The Candidate.”

Without having to put out a spoiler alert I’ll just note that Sparks comes to suspect that one of the candidates is being manipulated using a Chinese mind control technique and she sets out to test that hypothesis.  Unfortunately, the more she tests the more she puts herself and everyone she comes in contact with in danger.

While not every aspect of this political thriller’s plot seems that plausible enough rings true to keep the reader intrigued.  There is certainly a lot of action to hold interest as well.  The book starts out with a bang (literally) when one political candidate and a number of by-standers are blown up by a domestic terrorist and then the bomber is taken out immediately by an assassin before he can be questioned– very reminiscent of JFK conspiracy theory.

Lis Wiehl’s writing style is very matter-of-fact and literal.  “The Candidate” is certainly not a literary masterpiece, but it makes up for it in fast-paced action and intensity.

Recommended with a few reservations in terms of believability.

Reviewed from a supplied advance copy.

Liz Nichols

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The Italian Divide by Allan Topol

The Italian Divide” is Allan Topol’s twelfth international thriller.  It is part of his “A Craig Page Thriller” series.

Topol never minces words.  Readers know immediately that the world is once again in deep trouble because of bad actors on the political and economic scene.  The characters are eerily believable.  In this case, an Italian banker is murdered and another Italian banker is forced to sell his share of his bank in exchange for a financial bailout and support for his political ambition by a mysterious Chinese mogul who turns out to be China’s finance minister.  In the thick of it trying to foil the plot to destroy the Italian economy and divide the country is Craig Page, a former CIA director who has gone into retirement in the guise of an Italian race car driver, Enrico Marino.

Topol spins such a captivating tale that it is hard to put “The Italian Divide” down before the nail-biter of an ending.

Two thumbs up!

Liz Nichols

(Reviewed from a supplied proof copy.)

 

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Smokescreen by Khaled Talib and The Washington Lawyer by Alan Topol

Smokescreen” and “The Washington Lawyer” are two new international and political thrillers sure to find their share of avid fans.  Both have wickedly devious and complex plots and smart, appealing protagonists.  “Smokescreen” was published in paperback in January 2014 and “The Washington Lawyer” comes out in March 2015.

The author of “Smokescreen,” Khalid Talib, like his protagonist, is a magazine writer living in Singapore.  His story centers around a plot by members of Israli intelligence to have their prime minister killed rather than to allow that prime minister to forge a new peace accord with the Palestinians.  The deed is to happen during a visit to Singapore and is to be blamed on the Eurasian society feature writer, Jet West, a twenty-something journalist who until now has worried more about his watch collection and his fashionable wardrobe than doing something up close and personal to stop an act of terrorism.  He is assisted in his effort to save his good name, his life and foil this assasination plot by a young Singaporean district attorney and the American ambassador to Singapore.  The one orchestrating the assassination plot is a high ranking Singaporean government official who doubles as an Israeli spy.  At first I did not find Jet very likable.  He starts out rather shallow and immature, but he very quickly grows up and develops a moral compass in order to save the day. I think many younger readers will identify with Jet; he is in many ways the international face of the millenial generation.

Shortly after I finished “Smokescreen” I began “The Washington Lawyer” by Allan Topol.  I have read and liked Topol’s thrillers in the past, and this one is no exception.  In fact, I find Topol’s new work chillingly realistic and plausible.  An American senator secures a favor from an old friend, a Washington attorney who is being considered for the position of Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.  The Senator borrows the attorney’s beach house on the Caribbean island of Anguilla, but what he does not tell the lawyer is that he is taking his mistress with him to the beach house and not his wife.  The Senator also has a dirty little secret:  he has been passing defence secrets on to the Chinese for years.  When the mistress winds up dead– apparently through accidental drowning– the woman’s sister, Allison, decides to investigate.  She goes to Anguilla to investigate and quickly shoots holes in the police conclusion that her sister drown, but she finds everyone very closed-mouth about who she was with on the island or how she got to the location where she supposedly washed up on the beach.  The attorney gets caught between his conscience and his need to protect the truths that he finds out about his friend lest it taint his chances at the Supreme Court.  The plot is very sharp and edgy and so disturbingly realistic.

Of these two I personally liked “The Washington Lawyer” the most because I could see how easily decent and intelligent people can make one wrong decision that leads to ruin of many lives.  This book is particularly thought-provoking.  That being said, “Smokescreen” is a very good action thriller with colorful and memorable characters and an interesting plot that will appeal particularly to millenial readers.  Both are recommended.

Reviewed from supplied copies.

Liz Nichols

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Deadly Glance by Dallas Taylor

Deadly Glance” is about an attempted takeover of the United State and the U.S. economy by a transplant industrialist who grew up in Cuba and entered the U.S. via Mexico.  As this megalomaniac, Al Chord, steadily acquired companies he also built a non-profit called World One with a seemingly positive message of world unity.  What Chord only made clear to a select few leaders in World One was that the world would be unified  under one dictator– himself.

A former CIA agent and current attorney for a firm with offices in Dallas and Washington D.C., Jeff Walker, is the one to save the world from this new autocratic threat.  His firm comes to the attention of Chord when Walker’s D.C. partners, Bob Wright and Lil Turner, began to lobby on Capitol Hill on behalf of affirmative action legislation. This cause runs counter to Chord’s concept of who should get ahead in the world and jeopardizes some of his business interests.  Bob and Lil get threats that they believe are tied to the World One movement.  The police chalk up the threatening calls Bob receives to pranksters– until Bob turns up dead. Intrigue further surrounds Walker and his best friend, Holly, when they meet a club singer named Victoria who apparently also works for Chord. The more Jeff learns about Chord and World One the more convinced he becomes that World One is a threat not only to himself and his friends, but to the free world as we know it.

Deadly Glance” is a highly suspenseful thriller, although Dallas Taylor could have come up with a cause that is more hotly contested politically such as the energy issue or the privacy issue than affirmative action/diversity.  In the end the trigger issue is just an excuse to begin the process of world take-over by World One and probably does not matter.  I look forward to more political/international thrillers with Jeff Walker as the protagonist.

Reviewed from a supplied copy.

Liz Nichols

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Courier by Terry Irving

Terry Irving, long-time writer and producer for television and radio news programs, has written a real corker of a political thriller in “Courier”  published in April by Exhibit A Books.  On Irving’s website, he claims he fashioned the main character, a motorcycle courier for a television network office in Washington DC, after a young Nicholas Cage.  I could see a scruffed-up Ryan Gosling playing the part in what would could be a first-rate thriller movie.

Rick Putnam, the central character of “Courier,” is a Vietnam vet determined not to be swallowed up in an alcoholic haze following his stint in the service.  His nerdy roommates tolerate Rick’s loud PTSD-induced nightmares and his thrill-seeking lifestyle.  Putnam’s bosses at the television network take full advantage of his dare-devil motorcycling through the streets of Washington DC to bring them canisters of news feed faster than anyone else in the network’s courier pool.  The book is set in 1972, a particularly significant era for Washington DC news because of the Watergate hearings on election fraud and bribes going on in the Nixon White House and re-election campaign committee and Kissinger’s failed attempts to end the war through negotiation. Irving does a masterful job of setting the reader in the middle of this era of Washington intrigue.

Things go wrong in a hurry for Putnam and everyone connected to him when he picks up a camera that includes some news feed and supporting documentation that could blow the Watergate story sky-high.  The material is so hot that suddenly Rick is subjected to several attempts to run him off the road.  These incidents, combined with the sudden death of the whole news crew that gathered the story, and an apparent attack on Rick’s roommates at their rented house, make it clear that none of these situations are tragic accidents– they are attempts at assassination.  Irving’s description of all these connected incidents makes for nail-biting reading.

All of the characterizations in the book are little gems that leave vivid pictures in the reader’s mind.  So many vets and their family members will identify with Rick and his thrill-seeking, PSTD behaviors and yet he never asks for pity or to be cut any slack because of his horrendous war experiences. Many will also identify with Rick’s early experiences leaving home to join the Army to get away from an alcoholic mother.  Even minor characters, and the bad guys are memorably described in this book.  The computer-geek roommates are very memorable and play a pivotal role in breaking open the conspiracy behind the attempts on Rick’s life. Even the Vietnamese thugs who relentlessly pursue Rick, and the woman who controls their actions, Mrs. Jin, are described in a way so that the reader can understand the rationale behind their villainous actions.

The conspiracy behind this political thriller is chillingly plausible.  Irving’s fictional account posits that there was a conspiracy to thwart the Vietnamese War peace talks on the part of the Thieu government that involved flooding the Committee to Re-elect the President (Nixon campaign committee) with illegal contributions from Vietnam.  That is the secret Rick discovers is on the films he carries in his courier’s pouch and that the Vietnamese assassins want to destroy.

Courier” is without question one of the best thrillers of the year and a very good candidate for turning into a highly entertaining movie.

Reviewed from a supplied copy.

Liz Nichols

 

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Saving Paradise by Mike Bond

Saving Paradise” is an environmental and political thriller set in the Hawaiian Islands.  It has all the elements of a great thriller: a likeable and complex protagonist (journalist/surfer, ex-Special Forces and ex-con, Pono Hawkins), an atmospheric and beautiful setting (Molokai and Oahu), and a tense mystery that nearly takes down our hero in the process of solving the crime.  Pono is a former Special Forces officer who was assigned to Afghanistan and suffers  PTSD and other psychological illnesses that plague thousands of veterans of the middle east wars.  He is characterized as a flawed but likeable guy who keeps finding trouble but desperately wants to avoid getting caught and sent back to prison.  He has a very strong loyalty to his native Hawaiian roots and wants to preserve the beauty and serenity of the islands for as long as possible.

A journalist is found washed up on the shore on Waikiki and it is quickly determined that she was actually drowned in fresh water and dumped in the ocean.  Who would want her dead?  The lead candidates all have ties to the current governor and Big Energy and are tied specifically to the burgeoning wind power industry in Hawaii.  Environmental groups are opposing the wind power lobby because they argue wind turbines endanger several species of birds and seals and contracts to set up wind farms has been bought for political favor both at the state and federal level.

As someone who supports wind energy in my own state I took with a grain of salt the conspiracy plot.  Still, I recognize that wind power does have an environmental downside, and is not appropriate in every state’s plan to diversify energy resources.  Bond argues that solar power makes more sense in a state like Hawaii, and he may well be right.  It is also true that sweetheart deals have been worked out between the alternative energy companies and Washington and certain states, but Bond has probably heightened the conspiracy theory in order to make for good book copy.

In the end I enjoyed “Saving Paradise” as a very well written, fast-paced and exciting thriller, even though the conspiracy plot left me a little skeptical.

Reviewed from a supplied copy.

Liz Nichols

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

” is an environmental thriller set in the Hawaiian Islands.

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