The Hellfire Club
By: Jake Tapper
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase
Charlie Marder is an unlikely Congressman. Thrust into office by his family ties after his predecessor died mysteriously, Charlie is struggling to navigate the dangerous waters of 1950s Washington, DC, alongside his young wife Margaret, a zoologist with ambitions of her own. Amid the swirl of glamorous and powerful political leaders and deal makers, a mysterious fatal car accident thrusts Charlie and Margaret into an underworld of backroom deals, secret societies, and a plot that could change the course of history. When Charlie discovers a conspiracy that reaches the highest levels of governance, he has to fight not only for his principles and his newfound political career…but for his life.
I follow a few political commentators/analysts online and I think it was last year that they started mentioning this book quite a bit. I was intrigued so I had this book on my wishlist for a while. Then I picked it up some time ago, enticed by a sale.
To be honest the 1950s America isn’t a period of history I’m particularly interested in, which I guess should’ve been a warning sign when I initially added this book to the wishlist. The author does a good job in conveying the murky reality of politics, that you may be black-and-white about conduct and what should be done but matters are almost always a lot more complex than they seem, and Charlie learns it the hard way here. Unfortunately the politicking didn’t interest me as much as I thought it would; I really slogged through those chapters, which made me a bit upset reading it as I do find politics and the politics aspect of a story interesting.
What did keep my attention was the moments when the storytelling shifted to the characters, their own internal struggles, and in the case of Charlie his experiences during World War Two (go figure I’d be more interested in a period of history prior to the 1950s America). The lack of communication between Charlie and his wife Margaret was frustrating as they adapted to their new reality of Charlie working in the Capitol and at times Margaret was a bit maddening (though understandably she was fighting a lot of inequality during this time). Charlie’s tenuous relationship with his father was also interesting.
I think I would’ve greatly liked this novel more had the character development and character storytelling was balanced with the political intrigue and suspense aspects of the novel. In the end I didn’t care so much for the latter and the course of American politics than I did with the characters and who they were. Hence the okay rating overall.