Capitol in Crisis, by Kathy Roy Johnson

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to Reedsy Discovery and Kathy Roy Johnson for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

With an aptly titled book, Kathy Roy Johnson rushes onto the scene and makes her presence known. Johnson pens a fresh type of thriller with a political spin, making Capitol in Crisis one that many readers can enjoy without the vile imagery of a mob ransacking the heart of American democracy and an authoritarian leader inciting insurrection to hold onto power. Johnson focuses on a crisis inside the Capitol building when an explosion rocks the tunnel between the House and Senate sides, as well as the rush to assess damage and free those who are trapped. Anyone looked for a wonderful thriller with strong characters need look no further than this stunning debut novel.

Everything was quiet that morning on Capitol Hill, with coffee brewing and legislators preparing for another day. When an explosion rocks the inside of the building, no one is more concerned than Simone Perez, Architect of the Capitol. Worried that this might have been something planned ahead of time, Perez scrambles for answers, as everyone wants to know what is going on. With sparse information, Perez is able to ascertain that it was likely an explosion tied to the installation of a new power grid and not the act of a terror group, but that is the only relief that is to come anytime soon.

Initial assessments show that the tunnel connecting the House and Senate sides of the building is blocked by debris from the explosion and two men at the epicentre are trapped as well. Amidst those trapped in the tunnel is Addie Hutchinson, proprietor of the small café in the basement, as well as a handful of customers who were there at the time of the explosion. Addie is raising her three grandsons alone and has become like a mother to most everyone on the Hill, especially those who need their morning caffeine fix.

Simone Perez works quickly to assemble a committee of people from all aspects of Capitol life and some emergency groups, hoping to assess the damage and come up with a plan to rescue those who are trapped. This includes briefing the press and keeping them up to date on the progress of any efforts to end this catastrophe.

Working in harmony, various people develop plans to help those who are trapped and come to the aid of families who are seeing things unfold on their televisions. The pressure to communicate with those trapped falls on a maintenance worker by the name of Rob Tate, whose personal demons rise to the occasion and seek to deter him from his mission. Keeping things calm on the political side is Speaker of the House, John McIntyre, who wants nothing but the best and to be kept in the loop.

A harrowing rescue plan is put into action and the world waits as things inch closer to a successful end. However, when someone makes a major miscalculation, new problems arise and Simone Perez can only watch in shock as everything they have tried to do comes to a halt, with new and unforeseen dangers shocking those in the know. There are people on both sides of the collapse praying for answers, none more than the three grandsons of Addie Hutchinson, who have lost everything already. It will take a monumental effort to save the Capitol, but the strength of honest unity might actually propel them to some feasible answer.

When I saw the dust jacket blurb of this piece, I was not entirely sure what to expect. Admittedly, the title of the book caught my eye and I could not wait to read it. I pondered if Kathy Roy Johnson would put her spin on a terrorist plot to attack Capitol Hill or if she mighty have been foreboding the attacks that did occur on January 6, 2021. Yet this was a piece that might have been filled with politics, but its flavouring was completely different, allowing many to find themselves drawn into the middle of the piece.

There are many central characters in his multi-perspective piece, but Simone Perez would likely stand out as the strongest protagonist. It rests on her shoulders to handle the explosion and how to organise efforts to help those who are trapped. As an architect, she knows the technical side of the collapse, but she also exhibits a personal passion for those who are in trouble. This shines through as the piece progresses and keeps the reader hopeful that there are answers to help everyone involved. With hints of her backstory, Johnson paints a warm and caring woman whose emotions run high with the crisis in full swing.

Johnson is able to utilise her strong character development capabilities to craft strong support for her story and the plot. The story explores the lives of many, united by the tragic events on Capitol Hill, and each person has their own perspective that come to the front while things progress. From young children who seek their grandmother, to the press who are there to cover the story, through to the politicians who seek normalcy and to get the agenda moving, there is a personal touch on every page. The book shows hints of the political, but it is more the politics of family and community that shine through, something rarely written about in fiction about the seat of American democracy!

The book starts off strong and yet keeps the reader in the dark about what is going on. The explosion envelops those on the Hill from the opening pages and questions arise as to its origin. Rather than being terror-driven, the story is about hope and communication, with a strong narrative and a handful of well-crafted characters. Johnson uses mid-length chapters to propel the story forward and keeps the reader in the forefront of the rescue mission, as well as the personal stories of those who are most affected. Kathy Roy Johnson has developed something here that is bot addictive and free of the profane, sure to attract a larger group of readers. This may have political undertones, but it is not a political thriller. Those who love rescue stories will find something in it, as well as the people who like the buzz of Washington. I can only hope that Johnson will write more about those people she introduced here, as I am eager to see a political thriller utilising her writing abilities and the backdrop of the Capitol!

Kudos, Madam Johnson, on this riveting debut thriller. I cannot say enough about it and hope you’ll come up with more, as I am eager to queue up to read whatever you publish!

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