Author: D. M. Annechino

Publisher: Thomas & Mercer (October 16, 2012)

ISBN-10: 1612184227  ISBN-13: 978-1612184227

This is my second review of a book penned by Mr. Annechino (can we say that nowadays? do authors still use pens?). I also reviewed They Never Die Quietly. They are very different books, which shows the versatility of the author. I enjoyed this mystery/thriller more. Let me state up front that it was fast-paced, suspenseful, and entertaining. A real page-turner, as they say (again, can I use this cliché when reading with my Kindle?). I sailed right through it in one session and smiled at the ending (definitely room for a sequel here).

That said, I want to scold the author a wee bit. He could have done so much more with this plot and character list! It’s a Tom Clancy plot-boiler in miniature (Executive Orders has a similar plot, for example). I was always a sucker for early Clancy—not so much for his later work. Clancy’s books were like 24 ounce prime rib with too much fat—he had a wealth of interesting detail and many participating characters (Red Storm Rising is worse than War and Peace in that regard). Mr. Annechino had his chance with this one to do the same, but he preferred to release a book with minimal plot depth. You also don’t have the chance to know many of his characters very well. His book is like a very thin and lean strip steak. Tasty, but I wanted more.

The protagonist, Katherine Ann Miles, aka Kate, is President David Rodgers’ VP. The two are independents. It wanted to know how that happened. The author paints on a restricted political canvas by simply writing that the time was right, but I would have liked more detail. This has happened in the U.S. in some local elections, but I can’t imagine it happening at the national level. Equally improbable is the idea that an independent candidate hails from Kansas (maybe this is sci-fi? a parallel universe?). The story in three sentences? Rodgers is assassinated. Miles becomes POTUS. The book covers her first tumultuous months in office.

I would have preferred that Rodgers die of natural causes. I want the first female U.S. President to arrive in that office on her own terms because it will be a history-changing event to be savored—I don’t want it to be the consequence of another accidental or catastrophic event. Rodgers and Miles win the election on the strength of the women’s vote (one reason he chooses her for the ticket), so I guess we can say that she still contributes greatly to a history-changing event. In any case, Miles is strong enough to overcome many doubts on her way through those first months. I would have liked to know her better, though.

Miles and her female SecState Toni Mitchell are strong, bright women who manage to make their place in the old boys’ club of national and international politics, an arena with different rules and a different glass ceiling than those of the corporate venue. While I was reading, I sometimes wondered if this was just a nod to female readers because it didn’t seem logical that they could compete there. The world has had strong, bright female leaders before, of course—Golda Meir, Indira Gandhi, Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton, and so forth—but not one seems to be a model for either Miles or her secretary (again, I would have liked to know more about the secretary too). Miles seems to be especially fragile for the job, the SecState less so, but let the readers decide.

At first, no one knows that Rodgers was assassinated, but the conspiracy emerges with time. Plot thread number one: who’s behind the conspiracy? We get into “who” quickly—a bit more development is in order, because the “why” gets left in the dust. I don’t want to provide any spoilers here, but it seems the author wants us to believe that the group engineering the conspiracy is only motivated by its dislike for independents relative to more partisan candidates. I don’t buy it. Fanaticism is illogical, of course, but their independence doesn’t justify an assassination.

Plot thread number two: Miles tangles with Iran. She proves her mettle in spite of her fragility mentioned above—her right to be Commander-in-Chief, if you will. This is certainly counter-character, but maybe the author opines that in times of crisis new heroes are born. During the crisis, I’m not sure that the portraits of Abdullah and Ahmadinejad are correct, but this is fiction. Both come across as wimpy (as does Miles’ SecDef). You’d think the Jordanian king knew many smart, strong women during his many years in Britain and short time in the U.S. On the other hand, old Mahmoud, with his inflated ego and sexist culture, might truly be surprised that a woman would stand up to him—here his toady ambassador certainly is. Obviously, the author sees these two men—king and despot—differently than I do. He certainly sees Miles differently.

The crisis with Iran runs the risk of becoming entangled with the conspiracy back home, but the author doesn’t follow that perceived connection in the plot. It would have been fun to see confusion reign in the Miles administration for a while in order to develop the President’s character more. Following this conspiracy into the denouement would possibly make more sense then. I just can’t figure out what motivates the conspirators. They seem smart enough but make poor choices, so maybe their reasons for attacking our two independent office-holders are sufficient for them as part of some grand scheme—or grand stupidity.

Of course, the author would need a Clancy-length book to follow up on these items I’ve mentioned. He’d need more pages and more words. Perhaps that would have made it more like the fatty prime rib—Clancy also needed to slice off the fat in much of his writing. It’s a delicate balancing act. I don’t mean to imply with my list of doubts that there’s anything wrong with the book. It’s a little gem and a good model for an author to follow when and if he writes a thriller. This is how it’s done. What the author wrote, works well, so maybe we should leave well enough alone! I enjoyed it. You will too.

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