I like watching Jake Tapper as anchor of State of the Union on CNN. He is also CNN’s chief Washington correspondent and the anchor of The Lead Jake Tapper. Not only is he a respected reporter, he is also the author of four books, including the New York Times bestseller The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor.
To be honest, I have not read his previous four books, but I like Jake Tapper. I think he is an honest reporter and a capable anchor, so I was interested in reading his debut political thriller, The Hellfire Club published by Little, Brown and Company, a division of Hachette Book Group, Inc., New York, New York.
The book, The Hellfire Club is set in the 1950’s about a secret society and a freshman Congressman by the name of Charlie Marder. Charlie Marder is a World War II veteran and academic that clearly seem in over his head or perhaps just naïve unlike his father’s connections who helped him attain his unlikely seat in Congress.
Charlie’s wife, Margaret pregnant with their first child. She is not your average 1950’s housewife, but a zoologist who is studying the wild ponies on Susquehannock (in reality, the island name is actually Assateague) Island in Maryland. Little does Charlie and Margaret know that both of their worlds will collide as this political secret society has their own ways of getting things done in Washington.
A Slow Start
Firstly, when I read a book, any book, I do not flip through it nor do I read any portion of the book before I begin reading the first page through to the last page. (I’ll explain in just a moment.)
Jake Tapper’s debut thriller starts out slow, so slow that in this reader’s opinion, the reader doesn’t begin to feel the tension mount until about two-thirds of the way into the book. But I must confess I took issue with Mr. Tapper’s liberties with history. In fact, I have a bone to pick beginning on page 124:
“They stopped at the crosswalk of Independence Avenue, where the driver of a red convertible Mustang honked at them.”
Do you see the transgression in that sentence?
The automobile, the Mustang did not make its’ debut until April 17, 1964. The story was set in the 1950s. Do you know why that bugs me so much?
I grew up in Michigan. I live right outside of Detroit, The Motor City. My father worked for a subsidiary of the Ford Motor Company and we only had Ford cars and trucks in our driveway growing up on the farm. Another reason this faux pas annoys me is that I have always wanted a Mustang convertible, 1964 model painted Ford blue. (Are the readers in Maryland a little miffed about Assateague Island miscue?)
Another point I took issue with was the name of an industrial company that Charlie Marder did not want to receive federal funds because of the company’s rubber seal failed in the gas masks by soldiers in France particularly one young private named Rodriguez.
The name the author gave that company was Goodstone. Obviously, a name merged from two real tire companies named Goodyear and Firestone. A little cheesy in this reader’s opinion.
Okay, I know this all sounds silly but these examples annoyed me for a good portion of reading the book. It interrupted the pleasure of reading what could be a good story.
A Fast Finish
I finally got over those two issues along with some other historical facts and timeline liberties about two-thirds of the way through the book when the story really began to build tension and suspense. Although as a mother and without giving anything away regarding the ending, I once again had to extend my belief of a pregnant woman sloshing through the deep water alongside galloping horses.
Jake Tapper comes clean at the end of the book in his epilogue of sorts in which he states, “To state the obvious, The Hellfire Club is a work of fiction.” While I knew that the book was a work of fiction, I was still miffed about the liberties he took in creating his novel. It is in this Sources section that he goes chapter by chapter outlining such liberties.
Okay, now I feel better, at least he is going to confess to the reader how he really does know the Mustang made its debut in 1964. Wrong!! But he does share with the reader the other historical liberties and sources he used in creating his political thriller including the ponies of Assateague Island.
I forgive you, Jake Tapper. I do think this is a good debut novel and perhaps it would not have seemed too slow of a beginning or too fast of an ending had I not been so incensed about the Mustang convertible.
Genre: Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Thrillers, Historical
On a scale of 1 to 5 HOOTS, The Hellfire Club by Jake Tapper earns a 3 and 1/2 hoot rating.
The Blogging Owl
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