In Lyons’ debut thriller, a Seattle reporter’s investigation of a U.S. senator’s sex scandal reveals a secret organization that’s linked to suspicious deaths.
Republican Sen. Milton Bergman of Washington claims innocence when police arrest him after a violent incident in a hotel room. It involves a woman who works for Fantasies, a notoriously secretive “companion service” that refuses to provide their employee’s name to the media. Investigative journalist Natalie Schroder’s boss, Karin, assigns her the story, specifically directing her to identify the Fantasies worker. However, the last reporter who went after Fantasies, Ben Corker, tried to tie it to the Mafia and wound up in prison on drug charges—and subsequently died of pneumonia there. Another journalist, Cynthia Heiner, focused on a mob-related scandal involving one of Bergman’s political allies; she, too, died under mysterious circumstances. Natalie’s investigation is initially routine as she tracks down a photograph of the woman and one of Corker’s notebooks. But a conspiracy slowly unfolds involving a coded message, a missing person, and the likelihood that Fantasies has deeper connections to the underworld than Natalie anticipated. Lyons’ novel thrives on developing its mystery, and it delivers numerous twists as the plot becomes increasingly bizarre. The narrative moves at a steady clip, imparting information in a range of formats, including Natalie’s news articles and another reporter’s TV interview with Bergman. Natalie is shown to be whip-smart but short-tempered, and the senator is revealed to be dealing with guilt over past transgressions—including one that’s much worse than the hotel incident. The novel addresses some serious issues, including police racism and brutality, and there’s plenty of violence, explicit sex, and vulgar language along the way. Lyons’ decidedly ambiguous ending furnishes few answers, and it may spark a variety of interpretations. It’s a grim coda that makes politics seem outright terrifying.
An often enthralling, if sometimes perplexing, mystery tale.