State of Terror by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny is a frightening excursion into national and international politics and the dangers in both, many of which we may remain blissfully unaware. In one comment I read, the novel is based on one of the nightmare scenarios that kept Clinton awake at night when she was Secretary of State. The fictional Secretary of State in the novel is Ellen Adams who must face the reality, not just the fear, as bombs explode on buses in three European cities, and the fear that the United States is next. Equally frightening is not knowing who, in President Williams’ administration, can be trusted.
Ellen Adams has been named by incoming President Williams even though she is of the other political party. Adams turns over her immense media company to her daughter, Katherine, to take the position. She is not sure why she was chosen, but suspects it was not out of respect for her abilities, but to humiliate her. After her first unsuccessful trip to South Korea, it is very apparent that the president wants her to fail. She has no time to regroup before she is facing the threat of bombs on U.S. soil. Adams decides to use the appearance of incompetence to disarm foreign government officials as she moves from Iran to Germany to Russia to uncover what cities in the United States are being targeted.
Since the authors are both accomplished writers, it is not surprising that they skillfully manipulate all the pieces of this novel, including all the false leads, and maintain the necessary tension throughout. Family members and friends are all part of the story because in reality, they would be. Besides Ellen’s son and daughter, one of the most important persons is Betsy, Ellen’s dearest friend and confidante since childhood.
As readers near the end of the novel, there is a nod to Penny’s series of books featuring her central character, Armand Gamache. Since I have loved all of Penny’s books, it was delightful to unexpectedly meet a familiar character in a location familiar to Penny’s fans. No one says how much each author wrote. There is some reference to exchanging drafts, but the final product feels seamless.
I thoroughly enjoyed the book! I recommend taking the time to read through the authors’ notes at the end of the book. They offer insight into the source of the plot, their relationship as friends before they became co-authors, and the people for whom they named some of their characters.
State of Terror is published in hardcover by Simon & Schuster and St. Martin’s Press and retails for $30.