2016 by James Force


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A millennial worker at the Chicago Board of Trade is framed for murder in this conspiracy thriller.

Christian Roberts, 28, an aspiring broker, is working his way up the ladder as a phone clerk for a commodities firm. No sooner does he escape an inexplicable attempt on his life than he finds his billionaire boss and mentor murdered and himself the prime suspect. On the run, he fortuitously gets into a cab driven by a man whose son leads Strong and Associates, a covert squad of former members of the FBI, Secret Service, and the CIA. Think The A-Team crossed with Olivia Pope’s gladiators on the TV show Scandal. They’re “the best in the world,” says leader John Strong Jr., and they take Roberts into protective custody to solve the billionaire’s murder. The title of Force’s debut novel is woefully generic (it presumably refers to next year’s presidential race) for what’s essentially the origin story of how callow youth Roberts joins forces with Strong and Associates, setting the stage for a possible series. A sequel would benefit from a greater attention to detail. As a writer of thrillers, Force would do well to take his cue from Strong, who “never used five words when three would suffice.” The author subverts potentially potent action scenes, as when Roberts, fleeing for his life from the assassin, digresses to ruminate about the 1981 attempt on President Ronald Reagan’s life. Some readers may find two key players, clearly based on Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, to be laughable. Here, the first African-American president is blackmailed with a videotape of a gay sex orgy featuring himself (“the worst possible nightmare for any sitting president,” the author notes). Meanwhile, Abigail Mason, the secretary of state and likely presidential candidate, seems to embody every negative Hillary Clinton stereotype. The story has a climactic revelation, however, that gets points for its sheer shock value.

A credulity-straining thriller that could be a guilty pleasure for nondiscriminating genre fans.

Pub Date: Sept. 29th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-61-562976-6
Page count: 432pp
Publisher: Lone Star Books
Program: Kirkus Indie
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