Although this second installment of the Duncan Cochrane thriller, it can absolutely holds it's own as a stand alone if you didn't read the first book, They Tell Me You Are Wicked. This is a great continuation of the story started in the first book, and finds Cochrane not only having to deal with so many circumstances he never bargained for, but having to intervene in areas where others are clearly non-caring and complacent! All this and having to deal with his own secrets and demons while trying the maintain the position he was elected into. Without any spoilers, this book is great, the characters are well developed, and it was hard to put down. It moved along nicely, the multiple plots all fit together, and leave you satisfied at the end, but also looking forward to the third book. If thrillers are your thing, then this is the book for you!
Who'd have ever thought that a contemporary novel about 1970s Illinois state politics would be so engrossing? Imagine a David Baldacci novel, but with greater depth of character.
On one level it's a complex political and psychological thriller interweaving three simultaneous plotlines: political shenanigans and backroom deals to get a prison funding bill passed, the search for a cold-blooded sniper who's been gunning down innocents in a Chicago public housing estate, and the Illinois Governor's frostbitten relationship with his family.
On the first level, the author has clearly done his homework, painting a jaw-droppingly believable picture of politics in the capital hallways and bars. Many of the dialogues between the Governor and his aides are brilliantly reminiscent of "The West Wing". Never mind that it takes place in the 1970s; it all feels refreshingly relevant to today.
The second storyline, the housing estate sniper, would work as a stand-alone thriller plot, with an ending I'd never have guessed, but made sense in the end. The fact that it is threaded in with the other narratives makes the novel that much richer.
It's the portrait of the Governor which elevates this novel to the top of this genre. He is a complex, multi-faceted, conflicted and often hypocritical man, haunted by past tragedy and current events that seem barely under his control. It's enough to make this otherwise typical politician a character, if not always admirable, someone who deserves empathy. His search to exorcise his demons leads him to the most unlikely of places. Fortunately, the author spares us a happily-ever-after gratuitous ending in favor of something more nuanced and satisfying.
Other characters are also very well protrayed. The reader gets to know and understand the various personalities in a short space of time, through their actions and dialogue.
I normally wouldn't give any genre novel 5 stars. But this book goes a touch beyond the expectations of the political-psychological thriller, with its complexity of plot and, importantly, by being imbued with lots of heart. This is the first novel I've read in quite awhile that I simply couldn't put down.
By the way, although it's the second book in a three-part series, it works as a standalone.
I was given an advance copy in return for my honest review. I honestly think it's great.