Deep State, by Chris Hauty

Seven stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to NetGalley, Chris Hauty, and Atria Books for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

In his debut novel, Chris Hauty takes the reader on a ride with this political thriller. While the premise is there, the book exemplifies that Hauty is a screenwriter and much of the needed impact was missing throughout. Hayley Chill has done well while serving her country. Stationed in Texas, Chill bided her Army time boxing and showing that she ought not be taken for granted. When she is discharged, she scores a coveted position in Washington, as an intern to the President’s Chief of Staff, Chill receives many of the unwanted jobs, but keeps a stiff upper lip. Saving her boss (and POTUS) on one occasion earns her the gratitude of the Commander in Chief. When Chill discovers the Chief of Staff dead in his home one morning, she cannot help but wonder if it was murder. Soon thereafter, she is targeted by someone close to her in an apparent attempt to shut her up. Chill cannot help but wonder if there is a conspiracy being run by Deep State, the faceless group that actually pulls the strings in DC. The more she probes, the closer Chill feels she is to the truth, but only helps to reveal how vast and all-encompassing the threat is, with POTUS at the centre. An ultimate strike is in the works, though Chill will have to be neutralised in order for it to be effective and rid America of a controversial leader. Hauty has a good framework here for a wonderful thriller, but there are some issues that I cannot ignore. Some may enjoy the political nature of this book, while others might want to wait for the movie (as this book reads like a film adaptation).

I loved the premise of this book when I read the dust-jacket cover, hoping that it would be a real poke at the circus that is Washington these days. Things began well, with a nice protagonist in the form of Hayley Chill. She has a backstory that ingratiates the reader to her, with a poor childhood and a gritty determination to succeed. Arriving in Washington, Chill does not know what to expect and tries to fit in where she is already an outcast. As the novel progresses, the reader learns a little more about Chill’s sleuthing abilities, but also how she can make poor choices that will sink her if she is not careful. Others find themselves serving as interesting place-markers in a piece that tries to be political and a thriller with an evil cast of characters. The story had the makings of a successful novel, but needs a great deal more meat to keep the narrative moving at a break-neck pace. More politics, added deception, and slow reveals would have made this book so much better. It may have taken 500-600 pages, but something of that caliber would be worth the read. The twist at the end was surely redeeming, but does not save the overall mediocre quality. I found it difficult to process the present tense narrative, as Hauty uses it throughout and then adds odd ‘this activity would come to haunt X a decade down the road’ sentiments at various points. Perhaps another shortcoming when a screenwriter tries to move to novels. There was so much potential here and I was hoping for a great deal more. I can only hope that Hauty can find new ideas and expand on them, or turn this into a movie, where brevity is sometimes an asset.

Kudos, Mr. Hauty, for the interesting story. I cannot say that I ‘stayed up all night’, as your editor mentioned in the ARC I read, but there is some potential.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: