Russian sleeper agents inserted throughout the U.S. for a Communist takeover may have found their way into the Oval Office in Sweet’s debut political thriller.
Successful Wisconsin businessman Edward “Brookie” Brookside, wanting to leave behind a rancorous divorce and an ex-wife hoping for more money from the recent sale of his company, heads to Livingston, Montana. There, he meets and befriends the elderly Susan, who offers him a place to stay on her ranch. Susan also confides in Brookie, telling him an elaborate story involving her late Communist husband. Years ago, their sickly young son, Johnny, was dying. Russian agents somehow convinced Susan to care for another boy. Susan didn’t publicly discuss Johnny’s inevitable death and raised the boy, whom she calls JT, as her own. But Susan’s greatest concern is that JT is now the U.S. president. Brookie contacts business associate Robert Gabersen, a military man who runs a security firm, to help Susan, who’s constantly monitored by the Secret Service, as well as ranch hand Art, who is feeding info to the Russians. Getting Susan to safety is only part of the job; Robert and Brookie recruit others to ensure that the commies don’t activate sleeper cells and assimilate America into a new USSR. The novel is an intelligent thriller, one that takes place somewhere in between a hot and a cold war. The action taken is a stealthy infiltration of the country, specifically designed to avoid devastating nuclear conflict. As such, casualties on both sides aren’t from battles but a series of alleged accidents, such as a car wreck or what appear to be random explosions. The first half of the novel, which centers on Brookie and Susan, is better; it’s mostly a buildup for the latter half, but the relationship between the two, which Brookie equates with siblings, develops at a slow but worthwhile pace. When the team counterattacks the Russian agents who are hiding in Cabinet positions, there’s little suspense, as the good guys face few challenges. Most of their plans, including the capture of a high-ranking agent’s assistant, go off without a hitch. Nonetheless, it’s interesting to watch a war that’s being fought as quietly as possible.
A character driven, action-filled thriller pitting commies against capitalists.