HOUSE SECRETS by Mike Lawson

Book Quote:

“Terry was working on something, something he said was going to win him a Pulitzer. He wouldn’t tell me what, but he said when he filed his story the dome was gonna come off the Capitol.”

Book Review:

Reviewed by Mary Whipple (JUL 16, 2009)

When Joe DeMarco, “fixer” for Speaker of the House John Fitzpatrick Mahoney is called into the Speaker’s office to help him “help a friend” whose reporter son has drowned, he has no idea how his private investigation into the reporter’s death will mushroom into a case which will ultimately affect his party’s choice of a Presidential candidate. As he pursues what seems at first to be the simple confirmation of an accidental death, DeMarco must deal with present and past employees from the Defense Intelligence Agency, the CIA, the DC police, the Capitol police, the House, the Senate, the Washington press, and even the mob. He is followed, warned, and ultimately threatened by representatives of almost all of these institutions.

The discovery of a cocktail napkin containing names and a partial phone number, hidden inside the water-soaked wallet of the drowned reporter, leads DeMarco into the netherworld of political secrets, most of them surrounding charismatic Senator Paul Morelli, former Mayor of New York, now Senator, and the most likely Democratic candidate for President in a future election. Morelli has won both of his elections after his opponents have been discredited—one accused of throwing a case and having an affair, and the other found in bed with a sixteen-year-old boy, a night he cannot remember and on which he claims he must have been drugged.

Morelli has a few indiscretions and problems of his own, however, including a less than loving, alcoholic wife, but he has been able to keep his problems a secret. Like some other politicians, he has a “big bird” looking out for him, a secret supporter who may be willing to do just about anything to keep him “clean” until he can reach the White House. DeMarco’s investigation of Morelli does not sit well with his boss, the House Speaker, who has a blind spot regarding Morelli, whom he supports as Morelli builds a base for a Presidential run. Before long, the peripheral characters in the action begin to have accidents, and as the body count begins to rise, DeMarco finds himself without the support of people he has counted on.

Despite his large cast of characters and numerous subplots, which overlap and intersect, author Mike Lawson writes in an efficient, straightforward style, and he ensures that his readers will not get confused by having his characters provide helpful summings-up of the action at key points throughout the novel. The characters, though not fully developed, are individualized enough that the reader can easily imagine the novel as a film, filled with character actors engaging in dramatic and often emotional scenes. The twists, turns, and surprises never flag, leading to a blockbuster conclusion that is letter perfect, one that few will forget anytime soon.

Lawson is obviously having fun with this novel: everything about it is over-the-top. The characters, plot, political milieu, and imagined context all contain elements of truth and realism, but Lawson cranks thing up with one extra turn, creating situations which though often violent, still keep the reader entertained and even amused, rather than shocked. The Washington-based characters, with their weaknesses, obsessions, and willingness to do anything that will further their goals, are almost caricatures, created with a tongue-in-cheek energy which prevents the novel from being cynical, and the conclusion will bring a smile to the face of even the most jaded reader of thrillers. And should anyone wonder about political bias here, the author creates Republicans who are every bit as loathsome as his Democrats. Lawson succeeds in walking a fine line between thiller and satire in this wry and entertaining novel about Washington politics.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-4-5from 36 readers
PUBLISHER: Atlantic Monthly Press (July 8, 2009)
REVIEWER: Mary Whipple
EXTRAS: Reading Guide (with link) and Excerpt (with link)
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Read a review of the first book in this series:

More novels with political intrigue:


July 19, 2009 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: ,  · Posted in: Satire, Thriller/Spy/Caper, Washington, D.C.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.