Minotaur, Oct 12 2010, $24.99
In Aldyne, Illinois Ben Weinberg, the campaign team chief to reelect incumbent Congresswoman Susan Cooper, knows his candidate’s bid for another term is in deep trouble. He turns to his colleague who got him the job in the first place, former army intel officer turned political consultant Dev Conrad to straighten out the sinking ship. Dev is concerned because they have worked together for eight years and Ben never asked for his assistance.
Besides the ineffective husband David with his alibis for his wife and rumors of sniffing cocaine, the biggest issue is the money bags, Susan’s stepmother Natalie Cooper, better known as the “Dragon Lady”. Adding to the problems is the philosophy of the opponent Steve Duffy’s consultants, Monica Davies and Greg Larson who believe the end justifies the mean regardless of who they harm in the process. Meanwhile in spite of low percentile of public interest concerned with Susan’s mysterious past, she tries to conceal her secrets which hurt her election chances. However, all hell breaks loose when someone murders Davies.
The whodunit is fun to follow, but what makes the second Dev Conrad political consulting thriller (see Sleeping Dogs) super is the dirty tricks played by so called ethical people. Ed Gorman nails the concept that adheres diligently to Leo Durocher’s philosophy of “win at all costs” as the innocent are disregarded as expendable pawns as much as the politicians. For instance Dev points out that the unemployed receiving assistance has paid into the system when they were employed, which is irrelevant when you’re making political points of lazy on the dole people. Stranglehold is a strong political thriller as Mr. Gorman makes a case that elections are contact sports with no rules except “win at all costs”.