You don’t have to be a Washington insider to be captivated by former CNN correspondent Michele Mitchell’s debut novel: “. . . sitting pretty in Rome, drinking good wine, enjoying the company of the most handsome man in the world . . . .” I’m sold—and that’s just the book flap.
That scene is shattered for political consultant Kate Boothe when her business partner flies in from Washington to tell her that someone sold military secrets to the Chinese. Reporter Lyle Gold, her least-favorite ex-boyfriend, is nabbed. To Kate, things don’t add up to Gold’s guilt, so she takes him on as a client.
Things move quickly as characters you might see on Meet the Press or dining at the Palm rush to judgment, manipulate opinion, and convict someone before he’s had his day in court. Mitchell’s novel is a twist on the Dreyfus affair, a turn-of-the-last-century case involving a French captain tried for high treason, sentenced to life imprisonment, and later found innocent.
Spin becomes extremely valuable as Kate braves a war against the press, military and political leaders, and the public. Things get progressively rougher, and she’s not even safe at a Taste of the South party, where she ends up with a broken nose and bloody-mary-stained dress.
Mitchell handles politicians and politics with a wry touch: “Kent Brewster was just as plump as Mercer (no wonder universal health coverage never went anywhere; who in Washington wanted to subsidize all these walking heart attacks?)” and “You don’t poll unless you’re thinking about running on it. I remember when a client asked Jack to do the numbers on various girlfriends of his, just so he could figure out who would go over best with voters. He married the winner.”
Mitchell knows her subject—she began her career on Capitol Hill. “Ah, random acts of kindness,” she writes. “. . . Follow the rules: Information is spooned agenda. Why is who telling me what?”
Good question, no matter what century.