Former esteemed jurist and newly elected President Elizabeth Stone is riding high after winning the White House as an independent candidate and successfully pushing through a Constitutional amendment giving the chief executive the line item veto. Then, strolling along the beach with the Canadian prime minister, she and five Secret Service agents are mercilessly gunned down. Manera’s thinly veiled polemic against Washington, D.C.’s stagnant status quo starts out promisingly enough, as the authorities immediately set out to hunt down the heartless shooter. Early suspects briefly include the slain president’s historian hubby as well as her ambitious vice president. But before things get too interesting, the authorities have their man: Karl Schmidt, a vengeful small-time crook who happened to end up on the wrong side of Elizabeth Stone’s gavel when she was still on the bench. That Schmidt did the dirty deed is never in question, but George Baker, a dedicated FBI agent, believes somebody—or some persons—put him up to it. Enter the Company of Friends, a secretive Star Chamber–like institution bent on inflating their already piggish coffers by any means necessary. If that means offing the POTUS, then so be it. Readers already fed up with the influence of money in American democracy will sadly not find any of this too outlandish; that doesn’t mean they are likely to find it compelling, though. The narrative’s backward-facing plot relies too heavily on expository passages to explain events when it should be engaging in real action: “Liz realized that if she was going to dramatically reduce wasteful government spending, as she had promised during the campaign, she would need the authority to veto specific expenditures included in the annual budget passed by Congress.” Characters are similarly wooden and difficult to care about, while the foregone conclusion involving the Friends’ comeuppance is hardly revelatory.
A crime-of-the-century plot that, while making a good case for getting money out of politics, struggles to generate real drama.