"The kind of whodunit thriller you can't stop thinking about while you're reading and can't stop talking about once you're done. Smart, original, crafted with true insider knowledge, brimming with vivid characters, and a forward drive that just won't quit. . . . I couldn't put it down." --Vince Flynn on The Inside Ring
Mike Lawson's Joe DeMarco thrillers have drawn praise for their finetuned suspense, off-kilter characters, intricate plots, and revealing portrait of Washington, DC behind closed doors. House Rules, the third novel in the series, opens with a narrowly averted terrorist attack, a bomb meant for the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel. Then a private plane headed straight for the White House ignores warnings and is shot down. The pilot, a Muslim American, is suspected of having ties to al-Qaeda. An atmosphere of fear and panic overruns the country, and when the junior senator from Virginia introduces legislation to deport all noncitizen Muslims and start extensive background checks of all Muslim Americans, his bill gains surprising traction.
Speaker of the House John Fitzgerald Mahoney is not pleased. He knows it is the kind of knee-jerk intolerant response people will come to regret, like the Japanese internment camps in World War II, and he needs to find a way to kill the bill before it reaches the House. But Mahoney has a secret--the man who tried to park his plane on the president's desk was the son of one of his oldest friends. The speaker is in a bind, and also has some vague suspicions about the attack, so he calls his man DeMarco.
An average guy, DeMarco struggles with debt, divorce, and a difficult, unreasonable boss. He is an unlikely hero, in over his head, relying on old friends-- Emma, a spy who may or may not be retired, and Neil, an information broker-- as he attempts to get to the bottom of the attacks. House Rules is a riveting read, full of suspense, fascinating characters, humor, and timely political intrigue.
At the start of Lawson's snappy third thriller starring congressional snoop Joe DeMarco (after The Second Perimeter), a series of three failed attempts by Muslim terrorists to attack Washington, D.C.--one by plane, one by car, one by lone suicide bomber--causes nationwide panic. DeMarco wades into the mess when his boss, House Speaker John Mahoney, asks him to check out the possibility that the terrorist onslaught may have been more homegrown than it appears. Quickly appearing on DeMarco's radar is a suspicious, high-profile piece of anti-Islamic legislation, pushed by the blowhard junior senator from Virginia, that's on the fast track for approval. While the efficient plot takes some predictable turns, Lawson's engaging characters, with DeMarco leading the pack, come across as seriously flawed individuals trying to navigate a political world of high demands and constant distractions. Full of insider information, this novel reinforces Lawson's place in the upper rank of Washington thriller specialists. (June)
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July 07, 2009
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Excerpt from House Rules by Mike Lawson
DeMarco had learned long ago that working for John Mahoney was never simple. The simple thing would have been for Mahoney to call the FBI, ask his questions about Reza Zarif, then swear the Bureau to secrecy if he was worried about the press. But no, that would have been simple. And straightforward. Mahoney had never done anything straightforward in his life.
But if Mahoney's character had been different he wouldn't have employed DeMarco, a man with an office in the subbasement of the Capitol--a space a long way from the speaker's realm both in terms of distance and stature. DeMarco's family history--the fact that his father had worked for the mob--was not something a politician preferred on an employee's resume. DeMarco's lineage, however, was not the only reason he worked where he did. The other reason was that Mahoney liked having a man on his staff that wasn't really on his staff.
No organizational chart showed that the speaker employed DeMarco because it provided Mahoney that ever-important political advantage known as deniability. For example, because it was DeMarco who brought Mahoney envelopes stuffed with cash, Mahoney could honestly deny ever having met with the envelope stuffer, should the need arise. DeMarco was the guy, in other words, that Mahoney used when he wanted something done but didn't want his fat fingerprints, literally or otherwise, found at the scene. And if DeMarco were ever caught doing something illegal, John Mahoney could, and would, deny that DeMarco worked for him.