State of Terror, by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny

Eight stars

Louise Penny returns with high-profile story collaborator, Hillary Rodham Clinton, to create a strong international thriller that pushes the boundaries at every turn. In a story that has some subtle (and not so) references to the previous US Administration, as well as Clinton’s work as Secretary of State, the plot inches forward in a stunning manner. A few terrorist attacks in Europe turn the world’s eyes towards a group that seeks to topple all that is held dear. When the newly-minted Secretary of State is sent to handle the situation, truths emerge about future attacks on American soil, which could have drastic outcomes. Fighting against time and a blur of information, truths will have to emerge before America is again the victim of a horrible attack on its own soil. Penny and Clinton do well throughout this piece to offer up their own style, something I could not resist enjoying through to the final pages.

After a hard-fought primary and general election, Ellen Adams is rewarded for her service to the victor with the post of Secretary of State. As she assesses her position, she must come to terms with the fact that she’s accepted the role from her political rival, though someone she can at least stomach. The American political scene is somewhat dire, after four years of chaos under a seemingly incompetent president.

When a series of terrorist attacks in Europe begin to turn heads, Adams must assume the role of stateswoman and try to assuage the panic, while also taking a leadership role and get to the bottom of what’s going on. Tasked by the president to bring him news quickly, Adams assembles a team and they head to the region, only to discover that there is more to come. Someone (or a group) is preparing to attack America where it is the most vulnerable, as someone has taken the foot off the proverbial gas for the past four years.

Working behind the scenes and traveling covertly, Adams discovers that there is a plot in place to attack America at home. The details are sketchy and Adams will have to work alongside known enemies and some allies with questionable decision-making prowess to cobble together the truth. The world holds its collective breath, though many do not know what is coming. It’s a race to get answers, implement solutions, and bring stability once more. The key to is all may find itself in a small Canadian town, a place many know well. Penny and Clinton offer a great story that kept me guessing until the final pieces fell into place.

Political thrillers can be some of the most difficult books to write, particularly when the author takes an ideological side in their writing. They are sure to alienate some readers , simply by pushing their own fictitious agenda through plots, characters, and situations. This appears to be the case here, as Clinton and Penny have been panned by many, simply for the former’s political views or past work in a few US Administrations. While I am fine with free speech, it is the inane comments from those who refuse to read the books and simply offer vapid commentary that proves vindictiveness is an intoxication that does not require intelligence. That being said, there were many who could see some of the great storylines and writing, even if they did not agree wholeheartedly with the presentation in this novel.

The character development in this piece was quite complex and thoroughly enjoyable. Those familiar with Louise Penny’s writing will know that she creates strong characters in her novels that move from the page to the imaginations of the reader. Nuances and intricate details serve as part of the experience, which occurred throughout this piece. The imagery of the individuals playing various roles cannot be discounted, as they added depth to an already strong story and kept me wanting more.

While political thrillers and international terror plots appear to be plentiful in the genre today, there was something about this book that help elevate it for me. I am a fan of Louise Penny’s work and adore all things political, so this seemed to be the perfect mix for me. A strong narrative forged ahead throughout the piece and kept my attention until the final sentence. The plot evolved throughout, keeping it from being too predictable, with some wonderful twists that left me gasping at times. As mentioned before, it is the variety and complexity of the characters that made me take notice, as usual. The ending, and what a great one it was, left the door open for a sequel. I do hope this collaborative team can return for at least a little more, as the entertainment value was high and just what I needed this week!

Kudos, Madams Penny and Clinton, on a wonderful collaborative effort. You work well together, complementing each other’s strengths. I look forward to more in the coming years.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: https://www.goodreads.com/group/show/248185-a-book-for-all-seasons