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Review: State of Terror by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny

Title: State of Terror

Author: Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny

Year Published: 2021

Category: Adult fiction (thriller)
Pages: 512
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Location (my 2021 Google Reading map)USA (Washington, DC), Pakistan, Iran, Oman, and Germany

Summary (from Amazon): After a tumultuous period in American politics, a new administration has just been sworn in, and to everyone’s surprise the president chooses a political enemy for the vital position of secretary of state.

There is no love lost between the president of the United States and Ellen Adams, his new secretary of state. But it’s a canny move on the part of the president. With this appointment, he silences one of his harshest critics, since taking the job means Adams must step down as head of her multinational media conglomerate.

As the new president addresses Congress for the first time, with Secretary Adams in attendance, Anahita Dahir, a young foreign service officer (FSO) on the Pakistan desk at the State Department, receives a baffling text from an anonymous source.

Too late, she realizes the message was a hastily coded warning.

What begins as a series of apparent terrorist attacks is revealed to be the beginning of an international chess game involving the volatile and Byzantine politics of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran; the race to develop nuclear weapons in the region; the Russian mob; a burgeoning rogue terrorist organization; and an American government set back on its heels in the international arena.

As the horrifying scale of the threat becomes clear, Secretary Adams and her team realize it has been carefully planned to take advantage of four years of an American government out of touch with international affairs, out of practice with diplomacy, and out of power in the places where it counts the most.

To defeat such an intricate, carefully constructed conspiracy, it will take the skills of a unique team: a passionate young FSO; a dedicated journalist; and a smart, determined, but as yet untested new secretary of state.

Review: I read this book along with my high school girlfriends, but we aren't discussing it until December. I figured with Clinton's political knowledge and first hand experience as Secretary of State and Louise Penny's excellent writing that this one would be good and I was not disappointed. What I didn't know, but learned in the acknowledgements (I love reading acknowledgements!) is that the two authors are very good friends and many of the characters are named after their friends and loved ones. 

This political thriller is set in the here and now, in a divided America in which the alt-right is gaining power, the previous president was dangerously uninformed, and the US standing in the world is slipping. It's all a bit too real. But, that's what you get when a previous Secretary of State and presidential candidate writes a novel.

I liked that the characters in this book--the good and the bad--are smart. At first I was frustrated that this was yet another book about terrorism so, of course, the "bad guys" are from the Middle East and Central Asia. However, there are also home grown terrorists who are not from those regions, which made me feel better as, I think, it more accurately reflects the threats to our country. The characters are devious, cunning, and terrifying. They are also loving, caring, and doing the best they can. It makes them all believable and characters I was able to get behind. And, I was kept guessing as to who the traitors were for most of the book so that's good.

One really fun aspect of this book is that Penny's characters and village from her mysteries make an appearance! I can see this book becoming a movie, it's fast-paced, timely, and politically interesting. However, it does make me fear for this country.

Challenges for which this counts:
  • Cloak and Dagger
  • Literary Escapes--Oman

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