In Carr’s (A Place to Call Home, 2007, etc.) thriller, a family becomes the focus of two warring secret societies.
Wallis Jones, a divorce attorney in Richmond, Va., lives a quiet life with her husband, Norman Weiskopf, also an attorney, and their son, Ned, a 9-year-old genius. Their suburban bliss is interrupted, however, when their family becomes a key component in a war between the world’s two enormously influential secret societies, Management and the Circle. The history and reach of these societies is revealed in waves throughout the novel; ultimately, it becomes clear that these two groups shape every major political and economic situation in the world, and one or the other has been doing so since the late 1700s. Typically, these groups operate in ways that are either entirely covert or seemingly transparent that they appear to be beyond suspicion. However, a series of careless mistakes—and a mole secretly passing key Circle information to Management—leads to violence done to outsiders close to Wallis. The sprawling nature of the conspiracy creates a large cast of characters, many of whom disappear for long stretches of the narrative. Although this can be confusing at times, it allows Carr to illustrate how a range of characters is affected by these warring societies instead of just focusing on Wallis and her family. Nonetheless, the story’s most compelling moments involve Wallis’ family. She’s enlisted for help by a low-level member of the Circle, mostly due to her reputation as a tough, honest lawyer. Understandably, she’s skeptical at first, but as her friends and neighbors begin to die in supposed accidents, she can’t help but get involved. As shocked as Wallis is by the existence of these secret societies, the greater surprise is how close to home the conspiracy lies. So even as Wallis uncovers secrets that reveal the real reasons for global wars and why certain countries were colonized, her more emotional discoveries pertain to herself and her family.
An engaging thriller, even as Carr weaves a perplexing web of conspiracies.