WATCHDOGS by John Weisman

WATCHDOGS

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

It's the late 1980s. President Levine (just re-elected) is in the White House. And, as we immediately learn from interpolated memos and flashbacks, the Centralized Congregation--a Moonie-like, Korean, born-again-Christian organization--is planning to assassinate the Jewish Prez on Inauguration Day. . . with help from an unnamed White House insider, someone who's been a brainwashed cult-member since the 1960s. The novel's main focus, however, is on 50-ish Bill Chapman, chief of the Secret Service's White House brigade--who only begins to suspect that something fishy is going on when a spacey cult-member stages a pseudo-assassination (an unloaded gun) during a Presidential trip to California. Chapman starts looking into the cult's history. He also wonders how an ABC news-team just happened to be on the spot when the assassination-attempt took place. ""Was someone on Chapman's own staff an agent for the Centralized Congregation? Or someone on the President's staff?"" Meanwhile, Chapman nearly loses his job because of his abrasive, anti-press behavior; he also broods over his broken marriage (his wife resented his workaholism), his affair with a Barbara Walters type. But eventually, using a super-safe team of bottom-rung Secret Service agents, Chapman closes in on the cultist/assassin in the White House (whose ho-hum identity is soon revealed to the reader), assures that the Prez will survive the Inauguration. . . and goes home to his family, willing to take a desk job at last. As in Weisman's first, better novel, Evidence (1980), there's a modicum of behind-the-scenes appeal here--with the daily details of Secret Service operations, with the TV-newspeople on the periphery (the schemes of a combative ABC White House correspondent, the press corps camaraderie, etc.). But the plot is farfetched and ill-paced, the suspense is minimal, and Chapman--even with his last-minute transformation--is a flatly unengaging hero.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1982
Publisher: Viking