A former news anchor and a college professor find themselves on the run from a lethal U.S. agency in the second political thriller from Fischer (The Blood of Tyrants, 2009).
Law professor Ken Bannister comes into possession of a cassette tape of the White House Chief of Staff implicating the administration in a murder plot. Believing he’s in danger, he calls his old friend Brian Everett, who was once a TV news reporter and wrote a San Francisco Chronicle article criticizing the president’s response to a protest. They soon realize that terrorist assaults around the country may be domestically orchestrated. Both men catch the attention of the Federal Security Force, which treats any unfavorable actions or words against the government as high treason. At its core, Fischer’s novel is dystopian: The government owns all the TV networks, and, as the FSF pursues the two men, the president implements a 72-hour Internet shutdown. Everett laments that all George Orwell “got wrong was the exact year” in 1984. But Fischer’s setting is not a post-apocalyptic or near-future world—it’s modern-day. Many readers will relate to the fears at play: the threat of martial law, a crumbling economy and the idea that a foreign threat has been manufactured. There’s a hefty amount of action, as well, as Bannister and Everett race to the Canadian border to find a man who’s broadcasting anti-government messages. Meanwhile, the FSF and the Department of Homeland Security try to freeze others out of an investigation of passenger-train bombings and push the CIA and FBI into becoming allies, creating a civil war, of sorts, among U.S. agencies. The technology does seem a bit dated—for example, a “sophisticated recording system” uses cassette tapes, and no one thinks to make a digital copy—but it doesn’t diminishes the story or its rock-solid ending.
A concise but considerable thriller, and a fine companion piece to the author’s similarly themed debut.