Forget the Iowa caucuses. The real way to effect political change in the nation’s heartland, according to Lucas Davenport’s latest antagonist, is a carefully calibrated assassination.
Marlys Purdy has been through it all, and she’s come to realize one thing for sure: the deck is stacked in favor of wealthy farmers, and Michaela Bowden's shoo-in presidential campaign isn’t going to change that situation. The only hope for Marlys and her sons, straight-arrow Jesse and war-damaged Cole, is the election of Minnesota's left-wing governor, Elmer Henderson, and the best way to clear his path to the Democratic nomination is to remove Bowden with extreme prejudice. As the Purdys plot, Henderson reaches out to Lucas, who’s left Minnesota's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (Gathering Prey, 2015, etc.) because he’s concerned about several winking directives he's gotten from people at campaign stops to move to the center so he’ll be able to win the nomination if anything should happen to Bowden. It doesn’t take Lucas long to trace the messages to the Progressive People’s Party of Iowa, but once he makes the connection, he slows down. That’s partly because so many PPPI members are superannuated flower children who can barely chew their food, partly because the remainder are such self-convinced revolutionaries that it’s hard to winnow the wheat from the chaff. Aging activist Joseph Likely, for instance, clearly knows more than he’s willing to say about the suspects Lucas is seeking, and PPPI secretary Grace Lawrence is still hiding secrets about the Lennett Valley Dairy bombing years ago. Can Lucas, working without a badge, sift through the harmless and the tangential radicals in time to protect Bowden from the coup de grâce he’s certain is planned during her ill-advised visit to the Iowa State Fair?
An efficient and unremarkable treatment of a story that keeps threatening to leap the gap from paranoid fantasies to tomorrow’s headlines.