HOUSE RIVALS by Mike Lawson


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D.C. fixer Joe DeMarco, posted to the wilds of North Dakota, schemes to avenge the death of a young woman he was sent there to protect.

Maybe 50 people read Sarah Johnson’s blog posts ranting about the systematic low-level bribery of state lawmakers. But when Sarah begins linking the bribes to billionaire independent natural gas driller Leonard Curtis, he gets madder than hell and decides he doesn’t have to take it anymore. So he calls D&L Consulting, his longtime fixers-cum-bagmen in Bismarck, and asks partners Marjorie Dawkins and Bill Logan to quit threatening Sarah and shut her up for good, unaware that a potential rescuer is already on the way. Sarah’s grandfather Doug Thorpe, a Marine who saved John Mahoney’s life in Vietnam, reaches out to Mahoney, now minority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, and Mahoney dispatches DeMarco, his own fixer-cum-bagman, to Bismarck to make sure nothing happens to Sarah. DeMarco’s way of dealing with the problem, trying to dig up politically connected people who’ll turn informant against Curtis, doesn’t pan out, and one night, DeMarco, instead of responding to Sarah’s phone summons, beds a local schoolteacher instead. The next day, Sarah’s dead, shot apparently by a burglar she interrupted but actually, as both DeMarco and the reader are quick to appreciate, by a hit man Marjorie and Bill have hired to kill her. Under pressure from both Mahoney and Thorpe, remorseful DeMarco, aided by the world’s most reluctant FBI agent, assures anyone who’ll listen, including Marjorie and Thorpe, that he’s going to nail their hides to the wall. And so he does, very entertainingly, though not quite in the way he expected.

After DeMarco’s unwontedly personal stake in finding his father’s murderer (House Reckoning, 2014), it’s nice to see him go up against some fixers as impersonal as him. Everything here, from the hard-case characters to the headlong pace, is professional-grade.

Pub Date: July 7th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-8021-2360-2
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Atlantic Monthly
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1st, 2015


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