Patterson (Exile, 2007, etc.), whose Kerry Concannon trilogy already showed one fictional paragon’s run for President (No Safe Place, 1998), trots out another perfect candidate just in time for the 2008 election cycle.
Sen. Corey Grace (R, Ohio), an authentic war hero with Presidential hankerings, is the perfect alternative to Senate Majority Leader Rob Marotta (R, Penn.), a calculating hack, and televangelist Bob Christy, founder of Christian Commitment, who’s convinced the planet’s headed toward a Rapture that certainly won’t include agnostics, gays or Democrats. Slowly, circumspectly, Corey tests the waters, and the voters like him. That’s no surprise, since he always speaks articulately and judiciously, often several paragraphs at a clip. As his campaign trudges through Iowa and New Hampshire to South Carolina, a series of flashbacks reveal the skeletons in Corey’s closet—the error in judgment that killed his navigator in Iraq and won Corey a medal, his dead brother’s closeted homosexuality, his romance with African-American actress Lexie Hart—but while all these revelations threaten Corey’s election, none tarnish his honor. The road to the nomination is arduous, but whenever Corey gets into real trouble, he’s rescued by his iron principles or (twice, amusingly and unforgivably) by providential terrorist attacks that give him a chance to show his mettle. The race, which gives Corey many chances to ventilate his mom-and-apple-pie stances on abortion, birth control, school prayer and godless liberals, is as exciting as Patterson’s ingenuity and melodramatic flair can make it. The characters, however, are strikingly less original. Even the most casual Monday-morning political analysts will have no trouble seeing through the shamelessly thin fig leaves meant to cover figures based on Colin Powell, Karl Rove, Pat Robertson, Rupert Murdoch, Rick Santorum and Jim McGreevey.
A satisfyingly self-righteous update of Advise and Consent that reminds you how little American political fiction has changed over the past 50 years.