Former political reporter Steinman offers a witty debut political thriller heavily laced with satire.
Floridian Vik Patel is excited to leave his job as a junior press aide in the House Energy and Commerce Committee to become the press secretary for the charismatic congressman Johnson Jack Jr. He’s not even bothered very much by the fact that his predecessor was the first victim of a serial killer targeting young Republican politicos in what’s being called the Elephant Hunt Massacre. As Vik gingerly pursues a long-distance relationship with an insecure woman named Angelina, he navigates the treacherous Washington, D.C., social scene with his suave friend Max Murch. Meanwhile, as the number of murder victims grows, so does the media attention surrounding them. Vik scores a major victory for his boss, who’s currently vying for a Senate seat, by drafting the Washington Heroes Act for Arlington—a law that would temporarily waive the requirements for burial in Arlington National Cemetery and permit the serial killer’s victims to be given heroes’ burials. However, the killer seems to be closing in on Vik, even as two detectives, Deb Twentymon and Maurice “Momo” Morris, try to solve the case. The novel includes a full cast of memorable secondary characters, including U.S. Sen. Burland Gorge from Georgia and his perpetually inebriated, inappropriate wife, Bettye; the hairy Democratic Rep. Tony Varga Teatro from New Jersey; the comely conservative congressional staffer Isabelle White; gun-toting legislator Susan California; and a seemingly inept investigative reporter, Russ Gollub, who stumbles onto the story of a lifetime. Readers may almost need a score card to help keep the various personalities and their political affiliations straight. With such a large number of characters, some are inevitably one-dimensional caricatures, but in this satire, it often works well. Most readers will identify with the earnest Vik, who’s eager to prove himself and make his way in a cruel world. Mystery lovers, meanwhile, will be kept guessing in this unpredictable whodunit.
A fun, satirical mystery that proves just how ridiculous partisan politics can be.