Thursday, October 13, 2016

The Candidate

by Lis Wiehl
with Sebastian Stuart
Thomas Nelson     2016
332 pages     Thriller

The Candidate by Lis Wiehl makes the 2016 presidential campaign we are witnessing look tame—if such a thing is possible.

Erica Sparks, who rose to fame as a GNN news star in the thriller, The Newsmakers by Lis Wiehl,  has become a well established, well regarded nightly news anchor on the GNN network. She also has custody of her young daughter, Jenny, for the first time since her divorce, and she is struggling to keep it all together. The new President of GNN news is pushing her hard to reach the top spot on the nightly news ratings, and she feels enormous pressure to stay on top.

The presidential campaign is in full swing. It is filled with newsworthy aspects; the Republican candidate is a woman senator from Minnesota, and the Democrat is Hispanic from California.  Erica's investigative nose for news begins to sniff overtime when she interviews the Democratic candidate Mike Ortiz and his wife Celeste. Something is just not right about that pair. Ortiz seems way too dependent on his wife, and she is just too much in control. And then there is the gorgeous campaign manager, Lily.  As Erica begins to put together lengthy features about the two candidates, people start dying all around her, including the young woman she has hired to be her personal assistant to help with child care for her daughter. (By the way, Erica is not much of a mother.) Now concerned about the safety of her daughter, Jenny returns to her father and  Erica gets approval from her boss to plunge into the mystery. Erica is more concerned with the story than with her own safety as she travels to Iraq where Ortiz had been held hostage during the Iraq War. While there, she makes a startling discovery that pushes the plot forward at a furious pace to a shocking conclusion at the third presidential debate where Erica serves as the moderator. 

Despite a lot of inconsistencies (like how many nightly newscasters are such daring investigators), this is a fun read. For all her failings, primarily as a mother, Erica has a great investigative nose and a daring spirit. The plot is contrived but compelling. I knew I wasn't reading great literature. I didn't identify with any of the characters, except for the poor, abandoned daughter, Jenny. And I thought that Erica might be just a little bit too smart for her own good. But—I kept reading.

The question I have is one that you probably will ask yourself as you read The Candidate during this month of election frenzy. In an age of media attention to every tiny detail of the presidential candidates, why is Erica Sparks the only one to notice candidate Mike Ortiz's vacant stare and inappropriate smiles? Why did no one else notice Celeste's overbearing nature or her attachment to the campaign manager Lily. At least these impenetrable questions are a delightful diversion from the reality of this year's real-life campaign's craziness.

Lis Wiehl is a lawyer but more importantly a news analyst at Fox News. She brings her legal and television experience to her Newsmaker's series of thrillers. The Candidate is the second in the series. I think that this book makes more sense if you read The Newsmakers first.

Lis Wiehl's website.

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