In this political thriller, Tennert (A Prominent Role, 2018) tells the story of a traumatized man who believes that a powerful group is controlling America.
Justin Patterson, an Indianapolis psychiatrist, is married to Clarissa, a local politician, with whom he has two children. He and his wife have been together since college, but their differing political ideologies are beginning to drive a wedge between them. After Justin survives a mass shooting in a restaurant, Clarissa, a fervent gun rights advocate, excoriates him for not having had his gun on him. The brush with death has left him traumatized, which harms his practice and drives him to explore new political ideas. He begins to suspect that wealthy, powerful people are conspiring to control events and public perceptions for their own ends. Justin calls their system “the Armory”: “It had the ammunition to wage a ruthless war of indoctrination and abuse for an indefinite amount of time. It had the power to decide what is right and what isn’t.” Justin hires a receptionist, Lindsey Couture, who provides a sympathetic ear as his marriage to Clarissa—who’s now running for mayor of Indianapolis—continues to deteriorate. He suffers a fall in his building’s stairwell that puts him in a five-day coma; he suspects that he was pushed by a man associated with the Armory. As he attempts to challenge the system that he suspects is arrayed against him, he must also deal with the PTSD that continues to haunt him. The novel deals directly and ambitiously with the major political issues and climate of the past decade. However, Tennert’s prose style has an unnatural wordiness that feels somewhat dated, like that of 19th-century fiction: “My happiness for the political system showed signs of cracking under gradual pressure. Diverse segments and stories from numerous media outlets reported on contentious topics.” It also repetitively and distractingly refers to the aforementioned restaurant as an “eatery” 15 times. The book often reads more like a summary of a novel, with many incidents reported rather than shown. In the end, readers may be unsure how they’re supposed to feel about Justin—or even how the author feels about him.
A didactic, expositional tale about the current political divide.