Title: The Candidate
Author: Paul Harris
Genre: Political thriller
Publisher: Vantage Point
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from the author
First line: It had been twenty years since she last loaded a gun with the intention of killing a man.
Goodreads blurb: On a freezing winter’s night a little-known U.S. presidential candidate, Jack Hodges, speaks at a sparsely-attended town hall meeting in Iowa. It is a few weeks before the Iowa caucus, the first contest in the nomination process to be a candidate for President. But that single night in Iowa transforms the race. A female assassin waits for Hodges to take the stage. As he speaks a shot rings out. She misses, but the incident finally propels Hodges on to the front pages. Police arrest a mysterious dark-haired woman but she refuses to say a single word. Her name, age, even her nationality, is a mystery. Guided by his outspoken and outrageous campaign manager, Dee Babineaux, Hodges’ campaign soon electrifies American politics. It is vital to discover the identity of the mysterious woman who tried to kill him. Babineaux gives the task to Mike Sweeney, a true believer in Hodges’ cause. He must find out the woman’s name and past before anyone from a rival campaign or the media does. Sweeney’s journey uncovers more and more disturbing information, but at the same time Hodges’ campaign, guided by the ruthless, dark genius of Babineaux, goes from strength to strength. By the time Sweeney finds out the true identity of the would-be assassin, he faces a choice that could effectively determine who could be the next President of America.
I hadn’t planned to read this book until December, but I couldn’t resist a thriller about a presidential campaign, given our current state of political affairs. I enjoyed Harris’s first thriller, The Secret Keeper, and I’m glad to say that this second book justifies my characterizing him as an “author to watch.”
I’ve always found the games-making of politics to be fascinating, the way politicians and candidates trade in favors, crawl over each other, switch positions, and pander to polls. In The Candidate, the reader gets an inside look into a presidential campaign, and a knowledgeable look, since Harris has covered three presidential campaigns as a correspondent for the UK paper “The Guardian.” In this book, Harris gives us a little-known candidate who seems to have inspired true devotion and belief in his followers.
Mike Sweeney is new to the campaign trail, but he really believes that Jack Hodges is the man who can change the country for the better. When Hodges is thrown into the spotlight after the assassination attempt, he takes on the task of finding out who the mystery female assassin is, and what her reasons could be for wanting Hodges dead. Dee Babineaux, Hodges’ campaign manager, is experienced. She, too, believes in Hodges’ vision for the future, and she has every intention of doing whatever it takes to make sure he wins his party’s nomination.
Sweeney’s investigation takes him to Guatemala, a place with a history of horrible violence, violence in which the United States military had a part. As Mike investigates the connection between Hodges and the assassin, he is forced to make decisions about his own ethics. How far will he go to make sure Hodges has a chance at the presidency?
Harris knows how to craft an intricate thriller, and his characters are authentic. My only issue with this second book is that it wasn’t as well edited as the first one. Harris is a British author writing American thrillers, and even mentions in his acknowledgements having copy editors who help Americanize his English. Unfortunately, said copy editors did not have a terrific grasp of the difference between simple past tense and past perfect tense. This resulted in some awkward sentences that pulled me out of the story. However, you will notice that I still rated this a 4-star read, so obviously it didn’t bother me too much.