House Rivals (Joe DeMarco #10), by Mike Lawson

Four stars

Lawson returns with a tenth “House” series novel, in which he treats readers to a politically charged thriller with a fresh approach. Joe DeMarco has played the role of political fixer for many years. while under the employ of former House Speaker John Mahoney,. After being summoned to see Mahoney, DeMarco is sent to Montana to meet with the congressman’s long-time friend. From there, DeMarco finds himself in North Dakota to protect a blogger with a chip on her shoulder and billionaire Leonard Curtis in her sights. Sarah Johnson has been documenting all the underhanded dealings Curtis has had, making money off the natural gas reserves in the state, while greasing the wheels of political and judicial actors to ensure his success. She has no proof, which does not sit well with DeMarco, but the tides soon turn, the more Johnson is able to share. DeMarco knows all about the role of middlemen in political schemes and is certain Curtis has a local crew dealing with the minitiae to ensure success. Working closely together, DeMarco and Johnson engage the FBI to help with the bribery allegations, which only paints a larger target on both their backs. These middlemen will stop at nothing to protect their boss and ensure they, too, are left alone, going so far as to orchestrate an elimination protocol. Once DeMarco sees the results of their blowback, he finds himself more invested than ever in the case and vows to uphold Johnson’s memory while bringing Curtis down. Using his quick wit and sleuthing abilities, DeMarco tries to bring Curtis’ antics to light and quashing these brokers once and for all. As the drama escalates, Lawson keeps the reader on the edge of their seats in this high-impact thriller.

Lawson effectively combines politics with a thriller novel to keep a large audience happy as they make their way from the corners of Washington’s elite to the back alleys of America. His core set of characters allow the stories to branch off in many directions with few impediments, or character expectations to weigh down the narrative. DeMarco’s easy going attitude allows him to work effectively, even in the barren wastelands of the Dakotas (I grew up North of there, so no need to toss evil glares). Lawson handles the story well, the characters effectively, and opens a fresh approach to the plot, which sets him apart from many of the other authors who have a firm grasp of the genre.

Kudos Mr. Lawson for a wonderful addition to the series and the genre. I look forward to the next instalment and other new ideas you bring to the table.