Sunday, August 18, 2013

Flashpoint by Ed Gorman

"A cynical view of the electoral fourth mystery featuring political consultant Dev Conrad...Everyone has secrets, and Conrad has to unravel enough of them to find a killer and salvage a candidate." 
Publishers Weekly

“The Dev Conrad mysteries showcase Gorman’s gifts for creating realistic characters and plotting suspenseful stories.”

From Gravetapping: FLASHPOINT by Ed Gorman

Flashpoint is the fourth novel to feature Dev Conrad. Conrad is a former Army Intelligence operative, and current political consultant. He has a cynical political view. The only thing he likes less than politicians are political consultants, but he loves the game. This time Dev is in Illinois where a client is accused of murder. Not so much by the police, at least not publicly, but definitely by the news media. Or, as Dev Conrad puts it—

“Sex. A senator. A murder. An international orgasm.”

The novel opens with Dev Conrad driving from his Chicago office to Senator Logan’s rural upstate cabin. The senator telephoned Dev with some unidentified trouble, and Conrad, in a state of confusion and dread, is on his way to help. The trouble is a beautiful women lying dead in a pool of her own blood on the porch of Senator Logan’s cabin. The senator has a history with the woman. She was seen at several of his campaign events in recent weeks, and the senator admits to everything but sleeping with her.

The election is a few weeks away, and the story captures the 24 hour cable news cycle, and one of the networks is aligning Senator Logan with the devil. Conrad quickly retains Ben Zuckerman, a top-notch Chicago criminal lawyer, but Logan is holding something back. Conrad doesn’t know what, or why, Logan isn’t forthcoming, but he is certain Logan didn’t kill the woman.

The cast of characters includes Senator Logan’s strong daughter, delicate wife, and manipulative brother. A less than ethical operative from the other side, a beautiful local attorney, a detective, and a somewhat disconcerting federal investigator. It is a dark story, almost cynical, without Mr. Gorman’s usual wary hope. It casts the political system in a stark, and corrupt light. Dev Conrad compares current elected pols with the openly corrupt senators of the late 1800s, which were referred to by the industry each represented rather than their respective home states.

The mystery is top-notch. The murderer isn’t revealed until the final pages, and I was genuinely surprised, but Flashpoint is more than a mystery. It is social commentary on the state of the current American political environment from popular sentiment to its elected officials. It takes a whack at the news media, specifically the cable news networks, and the hatred and misinformation disseminated by certain fringe elements, which have garnered mainstream credentials in recent years.

Flashpoint is a serious and stark novel; however it is told with a wry sense of humor. There are a handful of lines, which made me laugh aloud, and more than a few places where I smiled. Not to mention it isn’t every novel that can make mention of Thomas Eagleton, communists, George W. Bush, conspiracy, and The Manchurian Candidate without devolving into something less than it is. And what it is, is a very fine novel, but be warned Dev Conrad’s cynicism is catching.

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