Smoke and Mirrors, by Barbara Michaels

>> Friday, June 11, 2004

I've been very busy this week, what with both computers at home dying (I actually had to reinstall Windows in both) and a very complicated week at work. The result was that I didn't have much time to post here. So, let's just start... first book: Smoke and Mirrors, by Barbara Michaels.

Joining the campaign of a charismatic congresswoman, young Erin Hartsock arrives in Washinton, D.C., filled with idealism and ambition. But her enthusiasm dissolves into terror when the campaign takes a malevolent turn. Someone...something...has begun threatening Erin and her colleagues. First come the strange fires, then a seemingly accidental death. As the election nears, Erin fears that she just may be a murderer's next candidate.
While this one's not one of my favourite Michaels, it was still very, very good. A B+.

The background was especially fascinating, with the heroine working for the campaign of a congresswoman who's running for the US Senate. Erin has absolutely no experience in politics, so her own role is very unglamorous (she's basically a gofer), but having her right at campaign headquarters gives her a privileged spectator spot.

As for the campaign itself... well, I really don't know if Rosemary Marshall's campaign was idealized by the author or if changes have changed so much in 15 years. As it's written, this one's just perfect. Plus, Michaels doesn't shy away from giving Marshall a party and a distinct ideology, and since she was pretty in line with me in this respect (to give you a clue, I'm pretty left-of-centre), I actually found it enjoyable to read.

With this backdrop, Michaels creates a fascinating plot, with characters who are excellently written. I especially enjoyed that the heroine wasn't a perfect character. Actually, it took me quite a while to warm up to her, because at first she came across as a passive-aggressive doormat. She came into her own later one, and I started to like her more then.

As for the "suspense subplot", that was very well done. Interesting and plausible, too. All in all, a very enjoyable novel.


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