Deep Fake, by Ward Larsen

Eight stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Ward Larsen, and Macmillan Audio for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

New to the world of Ward Larsen, I was eager to see how this political thriller would sit with me. Larsen has a wonderful style of writing and ability to inject political flavouring into the text that left me able to see what was going on, while also witnessing some of the ‘new Cold War’ themes he wishes to put forward. The curious reader will surely enjoy the approach and the ease with which the plot develops. Ward Larsen is yet another author I need to add to my radar, as this was a wonderful first impression.

The Ridgeway household has been through a great deal of change over the last number of years. Bryce was a long-serving soldier in the Army, making his mark on superiors and earning a number of commendations before he was injured and sent back home. Thereafter, he agreed to run for Congress, easily winning a set in the House. His wife, Sarah, has always been the dutiful spouse, but secretly has wanted something a lot simpler. This is stymied when Bryce foils a terrorist plot at a Republican fundraiser and becomes a household name in an instant. Bryce Ridgeway is not only a hero, but may be the GOP’s answer for the upcoming presidential election. Bryce is not certain, neither is Sarah, yet both agree to let fate take them where it will.

With a weak incumbent, the race is on and Bryce seems to be the easy choice to secure the nomination and a spot in the White House. However, Sarah begins to feel something is off about her husband and the campaign in general. His memory loss is worse than it ever was when he returned home after his injury and Bryce appears to be acting even more strangely than usual. Sarah seeks some advice from a friend with connections to research and surveillance, opening up a private investigation into Bryce Ridgeway, candidate for US President.

Soon, Sarah comes to realise that her fears may not have been that far off, as Bryce’s actions are completely unlike the man she married. Sarah will stop at nothing to get to the truth, even as those around her try to dismiss her claims. But there is more to the story than this, as a group of Russians hiding in the shadows are watching their plan unfold and the future of the United States crumble, one day at a time. They must ensure solidarity to the cause, which means silencing anyone who could spoil things. Sarah Ridgeway might be their greatest hurdle, but with her bombastic comments, she’s sure to be laughed out of any situation she faces. Still… one can never be too careful. A chilling story by Ward Larsen that had me wondering if this could happen with ease, even more subtlety than the Trump ‘puppet of Russia’ scenario.

I enjoy a well-crafted political thriller as much as the next person, but there has to be an element of reality to hold my attention. While Ward Larsen’s story does appear to have a fanciful element on its surface, reading the book proves just how subtly the actions could be to have ultimate success. Larsen builds his story with ease and keeps the reader guessing until the final piece falls into place. I was hooked and could not stop myself from binge reading, just to see how things would play out. Truly a sign of a great writer who knows his stuff.

With a strong narrative flow, the story builds in all the right places and keeps the reader wanting more. Momentum develops throughout and keeps the reader riding the wave, with strong characters who offer side-stories and flavouring the main themes. Plot twists are key to this piece and Larsen knows just when the develop them and how to tease the reader. While I did not enjoy the original story about which this book is surely based, I can see how Ward Larsen has adapted it to make it work and proves the new Cold War could be even more troubling.

Kudos, Mr. Larsen, for such a great novel. I can only hope that other novels you have penned are just as intriguing.