Reviewer Dr. Wesley Britton: Dr. Britton is the author of four non-fiction books on espionage in literature and the media. Starting in fall 2015, his new six-book science fiction series, The Beta-Earth Chronicles, debuted via BearManor Media. For seven years, he was co-host of online radio’s Dave White Presents where he contributed interviews with a host of entertainment insiders. Before his retirement in 2016, Dr. Britton taught English at Harrisburg Area Community College. Learn more about Dr. Britton at his WEBSITE
Author: Samuel Marquis
Publisher: Mount Sopris Publishing
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Author of 2015’s Slush Pile Brigade and Blind Thrust, novelist Samuel Marquis has accomplished something rather rare. In The Coalition, Marquis has injected fresh air into the often thread-bare genre of political conspiracy and assassination thrillers.
For one matter, the key players include Skyler, a highly-skilled female sniper who’s deceived her employers for years. No one knows she’s a woman adept with disguises and therefor untraceable, even after she shoots the President-elect. But her story is more complex than her profession. Her motives aren’t typical of most such free-lance agents and she becomes conflicted about her job due to both religious and sexual inner struggles. In fact, most of the major characters on both sides of the law are sketched with deeper personal stories than, say, a Robert Ludlum terrorist. For another example, Benjamin Bradford Locke, head of the pseudo-religious organization, American Patriots, is also chair of The Coalition, a powerful secret group out to take over the U.S. government by imposing their far, far right agenda on the country. They believe God is on their side. But Locke also has to try to balance the desires of the rest of the coalition leaders along with several family crises, especially the unwanted pregnancy of his teenage daughter. He wants to be a good father even as he plots targeted deaths of moderates and liberals who don’t share his vision of wanting a President in the mold of Ronald Reagan.
Likewise, FBI agent Kenneth Patton has to weave his investigation through a maze of superiors who ignore his theories or actively seek to block him while he reignites an old romance with journalist Jennifer Odden. She’s spying on the American Patriots while dueling with her insensitive publisher while feeling guilty for giving up the child she bore Patton all those years ago. In short, only part of the saga deals with conspirators and killers and Machiavellian power moves. Much of the story deals with character regrets, guilt, and self-discovery on very personal levels that humanize even the villains.
Marquis relied on considerable research and his familiarity with the novel’s various settings to give the novel verisimilitude. The Coalition is far less violent than most other like books, and there’s no mass devastation scheduled in the dastardly plots. It’s a nice change of pace to have no Islamic threats in the mix but rather ultra-conservative Christians wanting to take the country toward what they think is the correct, Godly direction. But if their best laid plans went smoothly without surprising twists and turns, well, what sort of story would that be?
I’ll admit, Marquis throws in unneeded red herrings, like a computer virus which doesn’t seem to accomplish anything. On the other hand, not to give anything away, there are characters I’d like to see again, even if The Coalition is intended as a stand-alone read. Perhaps a nice novella to tie-up a few loose ends?