Someone recently told me that it seems as if half the people in the
world have written mystery and suspense novels and the other half
wants to. My response: bring it on! The more the merrier. It's
always a pleasure to encounter a new player, particularly one who
comes right out of the gate with a confident work containing
intriguing characters working their way through a complex but
navigable plot. THE INSIDE RING by Michael Lawson fits that
description, and quite nicely.
The novel begins with a hunting trip. Actually, it's a special
hunting trip, an annual event that involves the President of the
United States and his best friend, bestselling author Philip
Montgomery. This particular hunting trip, however, ends a bit
differently. Shots ring out, the hunters become the hunted, and
when the smoke clears the President is wounded, and Montgomery and
a Secret Service agent are dead. A few days later a suicide victim
leaves a note seemingly confessing to the shootings. But not
everyone is convinced. General Andy Banks, the Secretary of
Homeland Security, received a cryptic note shortly before the
incident warning that the President's Secret Service escort --- the
inside ring --- had been compromised. Banks passed the note on to
Secret Service Director Patrick Donnelly, who ignored it. Banks now
feels guilty and decides to further investigate the matter, which
is now officially closed, on a clandestine level.
Joe DeMarco is a fixer. He takes care of problems for a client of
one: John Fitzgerald Mahoney, Speaker of the House. Mahoney calls
on DeMarco when a situation comes up that needs to be quietly
resolved without any footprints leading back to the Speaker's
office. Mahoney lends DeMarco out to Banks to quietly investigate
the shooting. DeMarco is used to relying on his brains more than
his muscle, quietly applying leverage rather than fisticuffs to
resolve problems. Fortunately he has some unofficial backup in the
person of the enigmatic Emma, a mysterious, powerful and dangerous
woman who may, or may not, be a retired government operative.
DeMarco quickly learns that his questions are making some very
powerful people extremely unhappy, and when he finds himself in the
middle of a deadly gunfight, he is convinced that he is on the
right track. DeMarco's investigation takes him on a dark and
dangerous journey into the deep South and back across the decades
where he uncovers the real reason, and the people, behind the
Presidential shooting --- and inadvertently discovers an unknown
piece of one of the 20th century's most enduring mysteries.
DeMarco is an interesting character who is wise enough to know his
limitations and isn't afraid to ask for help when he needs it.
Lawson, given the nature of DeMarco's work and his position, will
have a broad canvas to work from in future novels. And the presence
of the ubiquitous Emma won't hurt, either. Recommended.
Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on January 22, 2011