State of Terror by Hillary Rodham Clinton, Louise Penny
Published by Simon & Schuster
Publication date: October 12, 2021
Genres: Book Clubs, Fiction, Thriller, Vacation Reading
We’ve all heard of crossover artists. Singers who become actors. Actors who become writers. But politicians? Not so much. Politicking is a skill that doesn’t often translate to other arenas. I tried reading fiction by a politician that I admire tremendously and I quit at 10%. So, it was with great trepidation that I decided to read Hillary Clinton’s fictional debut, State of Terror. My doubts were eased by the fact that the novel was being co-written by Louise Penny, a much-loved mystery writer. I may not always enjoy her books, but I’ve always enjoyed her style. Could this duo pull it off? Short answer: Yes.
Ellen Adams was the head of a huge media conglomerate until she is named Secretary of State by the incoming president. Given that she spent the entire election cycle trashing his candidacy she was surprised to be chosen. When State of Terror opens she’s returning from her first trip abroad and it has gone embarrassingly wrong. She begins to realize that the new president may not want her success, but will capitalize from her failure.
Potential squabbling falls by the wayside when, in quick succession, three buses are blown up in three major European cities. No terrorist group takes credit leading to fears there is more to come. Adams and the new president are forced to start working together—his political alliances and her media contacts. They quickly learn that the previous president, deemed to have disgraced himself with his narcissism and ineptitude, foolishly agreed to the release of an arms dealer and nuclear scientist with an agenda against the U.S. The hunt is on, but Adams has been alerted that there is someone within the current president’s inner circle who may be playing a part in precipitating the crisis.
And so it goes in State of Terror. It probably goes without saying, but I’ll say it anyway: this is a political thriller. If you thought 2016-2020 was a positive time for America then this is not the book for you. Clinton and Penny come in hot with their depiction of President Dunn, the previous president. At the same time, nothing attributed to the man seems fantastical or impossible. It reads as familiar and potentially accurate.
Politics aside, the writing is so sharp and intelligent, the humor sly, that the pages flew by. My only quibbles with the novel are the inclusion of a romance that felt awkward and unnecessary. In a nod to Penny’s enormously popular Chief Inspector Gamache series the town of Three Pines and its inhabitants make a brief appearance. It stretched plausibility a bit thin, but still made me smile.
I loved State of Terror, but it is NOT escape reading. Everything about it is a rational American citizen’s worst nightmare. The fact that it came from the brain of someone who has had access to and knowledge of much of what’s in the novel only makes it more frightening. Still, I could not put it down. I learned far too much about the tenuous nature of diplomacy, the delicate balance between chaos and stability, and how many people there are who want chaos. All to return America to the way it used to be. That’s closer to reality than fiction, making state of terror the perfect title.
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*I received a free copy of this book from Simon & Schuster in exchange for an honest review.*