Yes folks, I’m actually posting a book review! My thoughts on this one can’t be encapsulated in my “three things I want you to know about this book,” so it is getting the full treatment here. This probably won’t be a regular thing, but we’ll see…
State of Terror by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny
Published: October 12, 2021
Date Finished: October 15, 2021
As soon as I heard that Louise Penny, one of my favorite authors, and Hillary Rodham Clinton, my favorite podcaster (and, oh yeah…former First Lady, US Senator, Secretary of State, the only woman so far to win the Presidential nomination from a major party, and the candidate who received the most votes in the 2016 election) were teaming up for a book, I immediately put my pre-order in. Then I decided to do something completely unusual for this book–read it before I reviewed it and base my review on the book and not on my personal feelings about the authors. Amazing, right?
First off, I’m going to be as anti-spoiler as I can here. It’s best to go into this book as unspoiled as possible.
Let me start by addressing the authors. I love Louise Penny and am obsessed with her Three Pines books but I was a little nervous about how she would do with a political thriller. Also, I’ve heard people say that they feel that her Three Pines books are slow-moving (I don’t share that opinion, but I respect that viewpoint) and they have no interest in reading a slow political thriller.
Folks, let me tell you that this is a perfect example of how “mystery” and “thriller” are actually two separate genres. It’s clear Louise Penny not only understands this but is able to write in both genres. I will get more into the merits of this book and how it works as a thriller in a moment, but I’m sure that readers of her more character-driven Three Pines books will still enjoy this very plot-driven book.
And now…Hillary Rodham Clinton. If you are someone who already reviewed (without reading this book) that it is garbage. Don’t read this book. You won’t like it–not because there is anything overly political or ax-grinding here, but because I doubt you will be able to get past your own prejudices. HRC writing a political thriller is nothing short of brilliant.
You see, I’m actually not a fan of political thrillers because most of them just don’t seem realistic. The world the author creates never seems quite real and it is abundantly clear that the author has not experienced the political world first hand. Well, that is not the case here. HRC is the ultimate insider and it shows here. I could buy almost everything in this book, which made it all the more suspenseful. If you want to know about the inner working of the federal government, the receipts are right here.
I will say I had a fear that this would be one of those books where all the characters were stand-ins for real people. There are two major examples of this in this book–I won’t say what they are, but you can probably figure out one from the synopsis and the other one is, well, unavoidable. However, I can totally get behind both of these. But, beyond that, the cast of characters is fictional. President Williams in this book is not a stand-in for President Biden, DNI Tim Beecham is not a stand-in for DNI Avril Haines, and so on. And as politics, there is no party bashing or anything like this. HRC is not settling scores here. Instead, she is using her one-of-a-kind experience to tell one heck of a story.
Speaking of which, you can probably tell by now that I loved this one–far more than I expected. Putting aside the star power of the authors, this is a very strong thriller that stands on its own legs. We start running from page one and don’t stop until the acknowledgments. This also avoids the all-to-common thriller trap of the mid-book slump. I tried to think of a one-word description of the experience of reading this and I could only come up with hyphenated blood-pumping.
There are many ways you can read this book: A political thriller, a woman-power (but not preachy) thriller, an insider story, or even a testament to female friendship. But I want to offer one more possibility: the result of two women, who have lived through their own struggles and have come through on the other side who have realized that this is their time to just have fun. Because, even though it is stressful and, at times, chilling…it’s ultimately a lot of fun.
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