State of Terror by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny – a brilliant political thriller combining real life and amazing narrative

State of Terror by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny

Astonishing, amazing and overwhelming – a political thriller with so many twists and turns that I was far beyond the edge of my seat! I know that a  political thriller needs to be within the range of possibility, but will push the edge of what is possible; this book offers so much – tension, puzzles and suspicions on one level, but also brilliantly consistent characters and real compassion in a world of high stakes and danger. The actions of the main characters stay credible, while challenging assumptions throughout. There is just enough humour to leven the tension, and enough information carefully threaded throughout to enable the least well informed regarding global politics to keep up with the flowing narrative. This is no “boys own adventure” but a strong testament to the links between women and men in a contemporary setting. This is the world of instant communication, but there is still a place for anxious waits for information; it is a twenty-first century novel that never forgets the human element. I was so pleased to have the opportunity to read and review this truly excellent book. 

This book is set at a vague point following a difficult four years of a President of the United States who had an adverse effect on the political security of the country. Its main character is Ellen Adams, recently appointed as Secretary of State much to many people’s surprise. She is an unlikely choice as she has not been a politician, but the active owner of a huge media empire.  She has been a powerful enemy of the new president, not endorsing his candidacy, so her appointment seems to be a mystery. The novel is a picture of a complex and shifting relationship conducted in the glare of publicity, as Ellen has to come to terms with her new role. Not that she has time to sit and contemplate her lot; from the first pages of this fast moving novel she has to think fast and act in public. This is a novel of shifting fortunes and fast paced action on an international scale, as the main protagonists have to travel across continents in order to attempt to establish what is going on, and what action to take next. Ellen’s relationship with her friend Betsy is in some way at the heart of this novel, it goes beyond the politics and at its most basic level this book is a celebration of female friendship. I also admired its cheeky comments on a certain British politician, nicely understated and yet familiar. 

It is difficult to comment on the plot too much without introducing spoilers. Suffice it to say that there are no boundaries to the extent of the complex plot and this novel’s audacity in introducing real terror to a fictional world which is so nearly real. Beginning with tragedy, this book has no time to wallow but pushes onward. The end pieces from the writers express how this is the nightmare of an experienced politician, written with real tension and skill by a thriller writer at the top of her game. My simple recommendation is to read this book, as soon as possible, and revel in its genuine tension, humanity and engagement.