My first Christmas book was State of Terror by Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny (see my previous blogs on The Book of Gutsy Women, What Happened, Hard Choices and Still Life). It is the coming together of one of my favourite politicians with a fantastic crime writer and together they take on a thriller with Clinton’s former role as Secretary of State at its centre. It follows a similar collaboration between Bill Clinton and writer James Patterson that left me underwhelmed (see my blog on The President is Missing) and, in contrast, this one had me gripped from start to finish.
It begins with a junior intelligence officer receiving a cryptic message and working out too late that it is a warning for a series of terror attacks in Europe. When no-one will take her seriously, she manages to get through to Madam Secretary Ellen Adams, who has to go behind the back of her President (not hard, given their mutual antagonism) to try and prevent an attack on American soil. This involves her flying around the world into the heart of various terrorist strongholds and putting the lives of her two grown-up children on the line in the process. All the time the clock is ticking and time is running out on working out where the next bombs are planted and trying to avert a nuclear catastrophe.
The plot is fast-paced and complex, the characters are flawed and likeable and there are some lovely moments, like when the Secretary turns up in the Capitol looking absolutely awful and for once gets good press for taking her job more seriously than her appearance. Some wishful thinking there from Hillary no doubt. The combination of Clinton’s insider knowledge on the role and Penny’s crime plotting skills is a great one and I look forward to the next in the series.