PURPLE DOTS by Jim Lehrer


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What ought to be the routine confirmation of a new CIA director spins predictably, and entertainingly, out of control in newscaster Lehrer’s dark D.C. comedy. There’s no reason that Joshua Bennett’s confirmation shouldn’t breeze through the Senate Intelligence Committee, thinks Josh’s old friend Charlie Henderson. As the Agency’s deputy director, he’s eminently qualified; he was too young to get dirtied in Watergate, out of the country during Iran-Contra, and mercifully uninvolved with Aldrich Ames. It’s true that there was the dicey episode of the Czech defector, but only Josh and Charlie know how that man got killed—or so Charlie thinks until one Marty Madigan, eager-beaver Committee minority counsel, turns up at Charlie’s B&B full of hints that he knows about the canceled Czech and airily demanding to know more in the name of the Constitution of the United States of America. Meeting with other Blue Ridge retirees (a former tech services agent has gotten a bunch of them settled in the area), Charlie soon decides that Josh is being put on the hot seat because despicable CIA director of operations Russell Bushong has passed all the dirt on him (yes, there’s still more) to Marty’s boss, Senate Minority Whip Lank Simmons. Josh is ready to fold, but the Blue Ridge retirees advise going on the offensive and promptly blow up Bushong’s beloved Jaguar XJ6. At livid Bushong’s vowing revenge, Lehrer (White Widow, 1997, etc.) abruptly switches from Charlie’s to Marty’s point of view, revealing a comically sinister side to the witch-hunt against Josh, broadening the satire (much hearty laughter about Marty’s inability to keep his mind on the diffident liberal counsel he’s determined to make his bride) but focusing on an evergreen target: the eternal Washington culture of lying, which makes every citizen inside the Beltway prevaricate reflexively about every subject under the sun, even though precious few are ever fooled by one another’s whoppers. The whole courtly farce is so gentlemanly and understated, right down to the final twist, that most readers will be inoculated before they even feel the sting.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-679-45237-0
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Random House
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1998


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