Our Girl in Washington is a sequel to Michele Mitchell's debut novel, The Latest Bombshell. Mitchell, a former Capitol Hill aide and CNN Headline News anchor, loosely based this story on the 1948 murder of CBS journalist George Polk. But even though the book is inspired by true events, it’s often hard to believe.
The political-consulting firm run by savvy thirtysomethings Kate Boothe and Jack Vanzetti is floundering after several poor decisions in the previous presidential election. So they’re thrilled when they’re hired to do media strategy for the powerful Essex Group, a firm that employs a former US president, a onetime British prime minster, and a former chair of the Federal Reserve.
Boothe’s first business trip for Essex takes her to Paris for a lunch meeting with a partner in the firm—a gesture to flaunt the company’s vast financial resources. While there, she meets John Jaures, an old friend and investigative reporter, for drinks. When he tells her he’s working on a story about “people so greedy, so overreaching, so devoid of human consciousness, it is wonderful, ” it’s no surprise he’s talking about the Essex Group.
That’s the thing about this novel—little comes as a surprise. Virtually all of Mitchell’s characters are one-dimensional. The actions of money-grubbing politicians, unprincipled journalists, and womanizing oil barons are easy to predict.
Although Boothe dismisses Jaures’s warnings about the Essex Group that evening in Paris, she can’t help thinking there’s a connection when he’s murdered shortly thereafter. (Don’t worry; this happens early in the story.) In response, Boothe and Vanzetti travel from Washington to Paris to Beirut to Brussels to solve their friend’s murder and hatch a scheme to take on the Essex Group.
The book’s most appealing feature is smart, fearless heroine Kate Boothe. In comparison with some of her contemporaries—The Washingtonienne’s Jacqueline Turner comes to mind—Boothe is refreshingly uninterested in men and has high career aspirations. You can’t help cheering her on as she confronts rogue oil barons and corrupt executives.
Overall, Our Girl in Washington is an entertaining, fast-paced tale that’s enjoyable as long as you keep your sense of humor. Mitchell’s over-the-top descriptions of Washington can grow tiresome if taken too seriously, but if you look past the stereotypes, you might find glimpses of truth—politicians, lobbyists, and corporate executives plagued by scandals and consumed by greed.