It’s odd to read about an America where Barack Obama was not succeeded by Donald Trump, and some readers might find it a challenge to navigate the novel’s alternate present without reading the first installment. Given Trager’s success in the prior book, and the higher stakes in this one, it strains belief that she doesn’t encounter more resistance or complications as she slowly pieces together the conspiracy. Some of her success feels convenient, such as when the bad guys make a groan-worthy mistake that leads to an over-the-top climax.
McCrone could do more to distinguish this from other thrillers centered on a secret cabal with eyes on the White House. The fast pace and twists carry readers along, and some of the prosaic details of paper investigations—tracking the bad guys through audit reports and campaign filings—work unusually well. McCrone’s research and political insight are an intriguing backdrop to this tale, sometimes holding the interest more than the central plot does, and will be a pleasant surprise to readers used to more gunplay-style action.
Takeaway: Political thriller fanatics with an interest in following paper trails will be satisfied by this second Imogen Trager investigation.
Great for fans of Brad Meltzer, David Baldacci.
Design and typography: B+
Marketing copy: C
In the third installment of McCrone’s thriller series, an FBI agent struggles to foil a plot to commandeer the executive branch of the United States government.
In 2017, Special Agent Imogen Trager hears a press announcement that’s shocking but also predictable, given the massive political conspiracy that she thwarted in McCrone’s previous book, Faithless Elector (2016). President Diane Redmond has suddenly died, and in advance of an autopsy, the official line is that the cause was a heart attack....
In this latest series entry, Imogen remains a memorable protagonist—a “bookish” and “formal” intellectual who’s as tough as she is smart. In addition, the book has a highly cinematic quality to it, with plenty of action along the way.
From Pen & Ink Reviews.
Emergency Powers is the third installment in James McCrone’s Imogen Trager series. A shadow network has been working for years to arrange and move the pieces on the board to ensure an ideologically-bound America comes to fruition. The game is afoot, the players set in motion, and the fate of the country hangs in the balance.
The novel picks up soon after the close of the previous story. Imogen has been deemed the FBI’s problem child and relegated to the sidelines in the guise of a promotion….
McCrone has written a large cast, but each character’s role is tightly woven into the momentum of the story. The characters are familiar from the previous books, and the events and tragedies that have occurred have left their mark. The emotions are authentic: Imogen struggles with bitterness and resentment, FBI Agent Amanda Vega worries about her friend, Professor Duncan Calder grapples with the malleable nature of justice, Frank Reed knows his time is running out before the very organization he helped build decides he is a liability.
The writing style is crisp and straightforward, keeping the pace moving swiftly. The mystery is tautly plotted, and from the first page to the last, the reader is gripped by the layered unfolding of events. The corruption of politics, the machinations of those behind the scenes, the movement of money, and the far-reaching impact of a select few players makes for a read that feels ripped from the headlines.
McCrone’s writing is insightful and astute. The bureaucratic coup he details on the page is disturbingly timely and prescient. Brilliantly executed and eerily plausible, Emergency Powers is a chess match of a political thriller.
Highly recommended for fans of intelligent thrillers revolving around politics
Link to full review, with synopsis: https://peninkreviews.wixsite.com/mysite/emergency-powers
"Was this the final move of the conspiracy she had chased into a blind alley?"
Readers will recognize some themes plucked from reality in this timely third volume of the Imogen Trager thriller series. The story explodes from the starting gate with the startling death by natural causes of newly-elected President Diane Redmond. Redmond’s successor, Vice President Robert Moore, publicly pledges to make no major deviation from her political platform, but the administration takes on a new direction behind the scenes. Moore’s vice president finds himself locked out of the president’s circle and their back-channel meetings. Though his party controls House and Senate, Moore seems shielded by the Department of Justice under a newly appointed Attorney General.
Agent Trager, previously assigned to the FBI's Faithless Elector Task Force, rises to the occasion. She’d seemingly stopped the plot to steal the presidency in the second novel of the series but had failed to expose or pierce the tight circle of leaders at the heart of the network.Trager soon discovers Moore is engaged and possibly even entrapped himself in a cross-country web of deceit masterminded through a clever corporate flight operation.
While the story’s action is sometimes slowed a bit by narrative detail, the depth and breadth of research needed to create the believable political and law enforcement scenarios is a testament to McCrone’s craftsmanship. The seamless writing doesn’t distract from the flow as sometimes happens with less polished gun-and-run thrillers. Many characters are multidimensional, another anomaly in this plot-driven genre, and readers will enjoy discovering the strengths and flaws of good guys and bad guys alike. When the main target of Trager’s old case reaches out, a man who had tried to kill her, the effective conflict heightens the tension as the story races to a last-minute confrontation to halt the most sinister plot in the nation’s history.
RECOMMENDED by the US Review - Emergency Powers by James McCrone