Plot/Idea: Ziman's novel is well-paced, engaging, and captivating. The transition from one scene to another is seamless, and the storyline is highly coherent despite the perplexing criminal and political intricacies introduced along the way.
Prose: Ziman's political thriller is adorned with a plethora of impressive adages. The novel seems to hit all the right notes with the prose at times being lovely, and at times brusque and sinister.
Originality: Despite all elements of a classic political thriller being present, the lack of a definitive protagonist, and the candid depictions of the flawed leading characters, paired with the ruthless portrayals of deception, set this novel apart.
Character Development/Execution: The characters in Ziman's Girls, Crimes, and the Ruling Body are fascinating and potent. The representation of the foremost characters as morally ambiguous adds to the intrigue of the novel. The supporting characters are crucial in ushering the novel forward.
Blurb: A high-octane, relentless thriller that will keep readers enamored while offering adequate political insights and bittersweet elucidations of human relations.
Date Submitted: April 22, 2022
Barry R. Ziman’s new novel follows a legislative aide caught in a web of corruption and murder.
When the story begins, Ryan McNeil is the 24-year-old chief of staff to New York Assemblyman Nickolas Somatos. One evening, Ryan flirts briefly with a beautiful young woman he sees on his commute. The woman, who turns out to be a legislative intern named Cathy Wilet, disappears that night, and only Ryan seems concerned that the information the police have doesn’t add up.
The Wilet case remains unsolved, but Somatos’s star – and Ryan’s with it – rises. Seven years later, Somatos is a congressman, and Ryan has relocated with him to the D.C. area. Now, another young woman is missing, and someone is trying to frame Ryan for both this disappearance and Wilet’s. Ryan must clear his name while navigating a potentially deadly Capitol Hill rivalry and trying to keep his own secrets from ruining his marriage. While doing so, he uncovers a tangle of lies with shocking implications.
Ziman is a former New York legislative staffer as well as a veteran of the D.C. lobbying scene, and his experience shows. His portrayal of sleazy, rough-and-tumble politics is immensely entertaining and feels authentic, even during the plot’s sometimes improbable turns, from the high-drama planting of evidence against Ryan to the over-the-top antics of the main villain. Ryan, despite his personal flaws, is a likable, almost-Everyman protagonist.
Unfortunately, the novel’s writing style overwhelms its considerable virtues. The author indulges in consistent overwriting, as in: “Ryan’s dreams, a sentimental, sand creation of his sleep, were wrecked and crumbling now as a tide of awakening swept over him.” Such overwrought sentences become wearying as the novel progresses and drag down the story’s momentum.
Girls, Crimes, and the Ruling Body has the bones of an intriguing political thriller. Its narrative style needs improvement, however, before the book is likely to appeal to a wide audience.
After witnessing the prelude to a young woman’s murder, an assemblyman’s chief of staff gets caught up in an investigation in Ziman’s tense political novel.
New York City politico Ryan McNeil witnesses state legislators debate the death penalty, and his boss, Assemblyman Nickolas Somatos, reads out Ryan’s impassioned speech against it. Out on the street, Ryan sees Kathy Wilet enter a limousine; readers find out that her boyfriend murdered her with a golf club not long afterward, after they discussed some secret files. As part of an investigation into her disappearance, Ryan gives his witness statement to a police detective, who’s skeptical about Ryan’s timeline of events. Ryan’s girlfriend, Caroline Tierney,works at a law office in a support capacity, and they both embark on a hunt for the truth. As Ryan digs further into Kathy’s past, his actions prompt the governor to deem him a person of interest. Sometime later, Ryan marries Annie McNeil and moves to Washington, D.C., to work for Somatos, who’s become a member of Congress. Back in New York, Caroline continues to probe financial leads in her investigation, which leads her to an arsonist and some very bad actors in the governor’s office. It all ends with multiple unexpected deaths of major characters. At times over the course of the narrative Ziman’s writing style reveals some distracting quirks, as when he introduces his characters fragmentarily, with details about their names, dispositions, and bodily features separated by pages at a time. The author also has a tendency to veer into passive sentence constructions (“A dinner of shrimp, mussels and pasta had been consumed”) and to haphazardly switch between past and present tense, which can be distracting. In addition, some aspects of the plot add unnecessary complexity. That said, the pace of the story is consistently propulsive throughout, which is sure to maintain readers’ interest.
A sometimes-intriguing but often convoluted whodunit.
Brimming with barely contained tension and a razor-sharp political edge, Girls, Crimes, and the Ruling Body by Barry R. Ziman is a linguistically rich ride through the halls of power.
Ryan McNeil works in the messy world of New York congressional politics, but also gets unwittingly tangled up in the disappearance of a young woman, as one of the last people to see her alive. The high-profile case could tank his career, but also threatens his freedom, leading him and his dauntless girlfriend to begin an investigation of their own, despite the mounting dangers and the target that has settled on his shoulders. What unfolds is an unpredictable and complex political conspiracy that cuts far deeper than a single murder, and stretches to the nation’s capital.
For political junkies and conspiracy theorists alike, this fast-paced drama ticks all the boxes, but there are some execution issues that can’t be ignored. The plot jumps around frenetically, with characters being only partially introduced before a new piece of this sprawling puzzle is introduced. The prose is overworked at times, with unusual syntactical choices that give the author a unique voice, but makes the verbiage feel forced, obfuscating meaning and impact for the sake of a clever turn of phrase. In contrast, the dialogue moves the story along, but occasionally feels monotone, which can undercut the suspense in some scenes.
That said, given our uncertain times, the clear theme of toxic politics versus righteous truth-telling is compelling, and Ziman’s obvious love for language and character building shines through this spiraling political mystery.
The National Indie Excellence Award (NIEA) has selected "Girls, Crimes, and the Ruling Body" as a Political Thriller Finalist.
"Girls, Crimes, and the Ruling Body" Award Finalist in the 2023 Eric Hoffer Book Award
"Girls, Crimes, and the Ruling Body" was the Winner for Political Thriller and a finalist for Mystery/Suspense in the 2022 American Fiction Award contest.
"Girls, Crimes, and the Ruling Body" was awarded as a 2022 Political Thriller Finalist in the Readers' Favorite International Book Awards competition.
"Girls, Crimes, and the Ruling Body" by Barry R. Ziman was a 1st Place Winner for Fiction / Mystery / General in the 2022 Pencraft National Award competition. This is the fourth national award conferred on the novel.