REIGN IN HELL by William Diehl


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 Veteran thriller writer Diehl pits scrappy Chicago lawyer Martin Vail against Bible-thumping militia maniacs and Vail's old adversary, psychokiller Aaron Stampler, in a mindless plotboiler that never fails to please. Having succeeded fabulously as a defense attorney (Primal Fear, 1993) and then as a district attorney (Show of Evil, 1995), crusading, street-smart Vail is now promoted to the lofty, politically turbulent office of Illinois State Attorney General. Between passionate trysts with his previous courtroom opponent, Jane Venable, Vail can't keep his paws (speaking of same) off corrupt politicians. Having committed his too-good-to-be-billable talents to the public weal, he effortlessly sends a pack of scalawags to jail using the RICO statute. He then finds himself tapped by US Attorney General Margaret Castaigne to draw up a RICO indictment against General Joshua Engstrom, a right-wing militia commander whose wacko religious order, the Sanctuary, may have been behind a terrorist attack on an Army convoy in Montana. Vail rapidly learns of Engstrom's hatred for his former Army buddy Lawrence Pennington, now President of the United States. Before you can say Ruby Ridge all over again, Diehl tosses in Arnold Stampler, Vail's homicidal former client and nemesis, as a fundamentalist preacher who feigns blindness and spouts marginally comprehensible hate sermons on Engstrom's radio station. From here on, Diehl's forced and foolish story hurtles on at full throttle, never stopping to question itself or the preposterousness of its plot. Vail staggers from one contrived cliffhanger to another until almost everyone is blown up except Stampler and Vail himself, who takes a bullet through his heart but has enough chutzpa to insult the President and thumb his nose at a federal judgeship. What a guy! Fizzy male wish-fulfillment that bulges with Clancyesque histrionics, frothing fundamentalist foment, and more than you want to know about hate groups and RICO indictments. (Literary Guild main selection/Mystery Guild selection; author tour)

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1997
ISBN: 0-345-41144-7
Page count: 448pp
Publisher: Ballantine
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 1997


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