As I mentioned in my previous post about why you should be reading crime fiction and thrillers this summer, today I’m reviewing the latest in the Imogen Trager novel Emergency Powers.
Author James McCrone writes an engaging and dynamic spy thriller in this latest in this incredible series.
From the very beginning, the reader is plunged into an intriguing conspiracy. Following on where the last novel left off, in the first chapter the new President, Diane Redmond dies in mysterious circumstances.
Her Vice President Bob Moore is installed as the new President following the death, and this sets in motion a diabolical plan, the full details of which are withheld from both the reader and Agent Trager.
The novel follows Trager as she tries to wrangle with her demotion from golden girl to the FBI’s problem child and uncover the truth behind the incredible events unfolding at Capitol Hill and further afield.
The action jumps between Trager’s work, which revolves around hiding her true purpose behind sham taskforces and sifting through data, the new President’s office, where everything is running far from smoothly, and several other intriguing sub-plots.
These include the investigation of Trager’s boyfriend Duncan and the taxi driver who was blamed for the car crash that almost killed them both and the desperate work of an on the run operative who’s now trying to turn into an informant, with the one disadvantage that he actually has very little useful information.
Trager’s personal life quickly catches up to her professional one, leaving the reader on edge as she navigates this challenging issue. The author handles it with skill and weaves tension throughout the narrative, so that the reader is constantly on the edge of their seat.
Throughout the novel, McCrone cleverly makes the mystery not what happened, but why. The reader understands that the Faithless Elector plot revolved around vote rigging and installing specific leaders in the White House, but we’re not told why and what end goal the conspirators are working towards. We know that a takeover is planned, but we’re always slightly unsure of where the action will lead us next, and it’s this that keeps the narrative moving.
By withholding this information and skilfully teasing the reader, the author is able to create a riveting narrative and a novel that is very difficult to put down. I read it surprisingly quickly, because I simply couldn’t wait to find out what happened next.
Despite the speed at which the plot progresses, and the tedious work that the characters have to involve themselves in to obtain the information they need, McCrone doesn’t just dump information on the reader. He uses his formidable writing skills to craft a novel that is by turns informative and engaging. You never feel like you’re reading a chapter full of explanation and dull facts, for these are skilfully weaved into the narrative. Equally, even when the characters are engaged in mundane tasks, such as sifting through seemingly endless records and files, the inherent danger in their work remains ever-present. It is this feeling of constant menace that pushes the novel forward towards its startling and, frankly, brilliant conclusion.
McCrone has timed the release of Emergency Powers to perfection; after all, America is currently in the grip of one of the most scandalous elections by, quite possibly, the most corrupt president in its history. It might be set in the future, but the novel remains incredibly relevant, particularly given the current situation.
With that in mind, the novel takes on a sobering air, as it serves to prove that even the most innocent of actions on the part of the US government can have sinister consequences.
In all, I’m a huge fan of Emergency Powers and think that the book is the perfect summer read for anyone that loves fast-paced thrillers. It beautifully combines the bureaucracy of a spy thriller with the tantalising chase that’s usually seen in detective novels.