Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Newsmakers

By Lis Wiehl (with Sebastian Stuart)

Thomas Nelson         2016
352 pages     Thriller

Lis Wiehl is a multi-faceted woman—author, legal authority, pundit, and newscaster. Erica Sparks, perhaps mimicking the author, is the protagonist of a new series of thrillers Wiehl has created. She also has three other series with women protagonists.

Erica Sparks is an investigative journalist who becomes the major star of a developing, television news network run by a megalomaniac billionaire. The Newsmakers is an introduction to the character and her first investigation.

Erica is handpicked by the owner of GNN (Global News Network) to be nurtured as the host of an hour news show, ala Erin Burnett of CNN. Erica is a beautiful, talented and determined woman, but she is flawed. Her tortured childhood keeps overcoming her resolve; a failed marriage and alcoholism cloud her judgment; and her loss of custody of her daughter haunts her every action. She is determined to overcome all these challenges with the new opportunity GNN and its owner are offering her. Besides that, the network is offering her boatloads of money. Almost immediately, a huge story lands in her lap—and then another one. It is almost too good to be true. Is she a newsmaker, or is she a news-MAKER?

The Newsmakers has several things going for it. First, Erica is an interesting character. She is feisty and determined. She has great investigative instincts and marvelous survival instincts. She is flawed enough that the reader doesn’t idealize her. Additionally, the setting of the book, a major news network, gives the reader some insight into the inner workings of something that the average person only sees from the final perspective—the news show as it appears on our home TV screen. Finally, the conclusion is heart stopping (although completely far-fetched).
There are also things that I didn’t like about the book. Although the plot is compelling, there is something contrived about it. It could be that the very short chapters didn’t give me a chance to relate to the characters and the action. It was easy to close the book after a couple of chapters and not return until the next evening at bedtime. I didn’t really get involved until the last few chapters of the book. Also, the book is written in the third person. I think that this device is what kept me from identifying with any of the characters. Not sure, but I noticed that a lot of Goodreads readers didn’t like that aspect of the book, either.

Finally, The Newsmakers isn’t very good literature. Thrillers can be, and have been, written well, so that the reader can relate to the plot on a literary, as well as an action, standpoint. This book has none of that. It is completely plot driven. The publisher is a Christian publishing house, and I don’t know how much that has to do with the clean and redemptive nature of the novel, but I think that may have something to do with the character development, in particular.

All in all, The Newsmakers is great as diversion—I could read it on the couch while my husband was flipping channels and not be distracted. There is some benefit in that. The fireplace is in that room.

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