White is former FBI agent Christopher Whitcomb’s second foray into fiction, picking up where his first novel, Black, left off. Terrorists have struck the heartland three weeks into a new Democratic administration, which has replaced one-termer George W. Bush. Bombs have gone off in Atlanta, the Mall of America in Minnesota, and, unthinkably, Disneyland. And that’s only the beginning.
The hero is again Jeremy Waller, who shares Whitcomb’s former job as a sniper on the FBI’s Hostage Rescue Team. Waller is thrust into the middle of a terror plot that he has to derail before the wave of attacks reaches the Capitol. The scenario is startlingly real and uncomfortably close to home for Washingtonians. If not for some glaring flaws in the writing, this would be a fantastic book.
To be fair, you don’t open a thriller expecting poetry, but this one falls short even by that standard. I’ll excuse most things in the interest of a good story, but certain sentences here are beyond the pale. Try this: “Unlikely allies, the two had forged an alliance of sorts.”
Some of the dialogue is equally laughable, particularly when Whitcomb attempts dialect, such as when a doorman says, “I ain’t care, but Ms. Embry in 1411 always watching those handicapped spaces. She’ll call the po-lice and they write yo’ ass up.” A sentence later, the doorman advises the visitors to “Suit yissef.”
If you can get past that, then White is worth your time. The plot is rich with conspiracies and counterconspiracies that threaten to topple a nation already crumbling under relentless attacks. Though a few minor plot twists are absurd (such as the Washington Post’s preoccupation with the President’s military record during a national crisis—can you imagine?), it’s generally possible to suspend disbelief for the sake of the story.
A lot happens in this book, and though there may be one too many plot strands, the story is still satisfying. Besides, anything that wasn’t resolved in White will surely be tied up in Gray or Purple or whatever.
For all the book’s missteps, Whitcomb likely represents a new generation of thriller writers for whom terrorism is the central theme, in the same way that Tom Clancy and his ilk played off Cold War fears for years. If Whitcomb can clean up a few bad habits, he could achieve the same status as a premier storyteller.