A physician and the White House chief of staff both suspect something sinister behind the vice president’s sudden, unexplained death in this debut thriller.
Dr. Dan Russell unfortunately can’t save Vice President Rosalyn Delstrotto’s life after she has an apparent seizure. But he’s disturbed by the woman’s pupils, which strangely remain constricted even post-death. Vice presidential adviser Ken Trainer, however, tells the doctor to forget anything’s happened, and the Secret Service takes Delstrotto’s body away. President Raymond Winslet, sans a running mate for the upcoming election, chooses Sen. Jonathan Savage, whom more than one person has recommended. The bid’s a success, but White House Chief of Staff Chad Madden doesn’t trust the new vice president, whose team of aides is largely unknown and who shuts out his own chief of staff and Madden’s friend, Jason Clark. Madden asks his ex-girlfriend Jennifer Smitt at the FBI to check out Savage’s pals and suspects a rat in the president’s administration when Winslet’s top-secret project isn’t so secret anymore. Russell, meanwhile, believes a virus may have caused Delstrotto’s demise, likely confirmed when others die in symptomatically similar ways. A potential epidemic and a mole could indicate someone’s diabolical agenda—and a threat to the nation. Though Tenery (Chasing the Ponytail, 2016, etc.) doesn’t immediately reveal every villain, there are plenty of menacing characters, like Trainer, who all but threatens Russell at the hospital. Madden and Russell are dependable protagonists, as well as grounded; they aren’t action heroes and react realistically (and understandably) when caught in precarious predicaments. The near-future setting is timely politically, taking place soon after Donald Trump’s presidency (just one term), but runs short on tech, hinting that but not specifying how “communication technology” has “leapfrogged.” Tenery fills his pages with plot turns, including unexpectedly corrupt characters, at least one truly shocking death, and a dread-inducing, anonymous individual seemingly spearheading a nefarious plan. A memorable ending implies a possible sequel.
Consistently blends dual medical and political storylines, each with its own worthy protagonist.