A newspaperman finds new direction working for a watchdog group and is drawn to a ruthless lobbyist in this debut novel of corrupt Capitol politics.
Ethan Scott built a Kansas City, Missouri, newspaper, yet recently endured the “injustice” of its sale. During a visit to New York City with his girlfriend, Elizabeth, he spots a respectable-looking man spray-painting a red V on a building; before scurrying away, the man says, “Wide is the path!” Elizabeth heads back home, and Ethan travels on to Washington, D.C., to meet up with military buddies. On his flight, he meets Anne Preston, a beautiful oil industry lobbyist, with whom he soon has a sexual affair. He later discovers that the New York City vandal was David Samuel, the president of Citizens’ Mandamus Council, an organization dedicated to exposing political corruption. Scott joins CMC and rises quickly through its ranks, thanks in part to his idealistic (and successfully money-raising) speeches, broadcast by attractive network anchor Abigail Sanders. The novel proceeds to detail the Beltway nexus of money, greed, and corruption, in which Anne has no problem playing a part. By novel’s end, Ethan watches Anne leave in a taxi, seeing “the cab as a hearse carrying the harbinger of death. It was not love but an attraction he was still unprepared to put a name on.” Spencer has written an intricate novel with a surfeit of secondary characters (including two oil honchos, various U.S. congressmen, Abigail’s colleagues, and others) as well as conspiracy elements, such as a manipulated alternative-energy bill, international banking malfeasance, and oil industry collusion. Ethan and Anne’s dark romance serves as an anchor of sorts for the novel and has some entertaining appeal, given its nods to Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and film-noir-like attraction and antagonism. Overall, however, readers will find it challenging to follow the many threads of this complex conspiracy-web narrative. Hopefully, Spencer will further unravel and simplify the story in future installments of this planned series.
An intense but overpacked drama of D.C. power machinations.