Daily Review: Political Dirty Trick by James R. Callan
October 15, 2018
With the backdrop of a bare-knuckled election campaign, Political Dirty Trick is relentlessly intriguing.
Not a political book. But a tense, suspense novel, played out during an election campaign.
Crystal Moore’s good friend Ron Drake is running for governor of Texas. Polls show he has 70% of the votes. But, fake news begins pouring out, and with two weeks left before election day, his numbers are now below his opponent’s.
Only Crystal believes that an art theft at Ron’s house is related to the election. She begins to search for clues which might tie the theft and a dead man to a political dirty trick and the fake news. She finds the first clue, and quickly she is attacked and almost killed.
But a pair of red boots changes everything. Two more attacks land her in the hospital. It looks like Ron may lose the election. And Crystal may lose her life.
By Michael P. Hartnett
The transformation and the downward spiral of the political operative Ginnie is one of the highlights of James R. Callan’s lively and extremely likable novel, Political Dirty Trick: A Crystal Moore Suspense. As Ginnie’s mistakes compound, Callan explains her essential problem: “Try as she might, Ginnie couldn’t leave it alone.” Her inability to constrain herself drives this pulsing storyline. The novel opens with her stealing a Mondrian from the house of Texas gubernatorial candidate Ron Drake. That theft is part of the clever plan to scandalize Drake and to throw his campaign into turmoil.
And, indeed, following various machinations (some quite violent) that fill the reader’s head with an impending sense of doom, the turmoil arrives, ushered along by numerous unsavory characters, particularly the District Attorney and her aide, not to mention a cagey insurance adjustor.
Luckily, the resourceful and resilient Crystal Moore is on candidate Drake’s side to investigate all of the shenanigans. Crystal’s grandmother Eula is also there to offer her advice, her shotgun, and some colorful expressions: “But that painting, I wouldn’t give you two cow patties for it.”
Filling out this team of investigators is Sheriff Bill Glothe, who, aided mightily by Crystal’s vital contributions, slowly unravels the multitude of mysteries.
That unraveling, often presented in disarming ways, is one of Political Dirty Trick’s many pleasures. Another resides in the gathering understanding that these characters really are in no way extraordinary; they are so grounded and familiar as well-developed, realistic characters that the reader cares for them and finds them to be grand company.
The one exception to these sharply recognizable characters is Ron Drake, the gubernatorial candidate, since he is the rarest of politicians – marked by authenticity, integrity, and, most remarkably, modesty. Drake is truly a figure that reader can root for.
With the backdrop of a bare-knuckled election campaign, Political Dirty Trick is relentlessly intriguing and satisfies right up to the memorable climax. Callan has bestowed on the reader a wonderful novel, entertaining and dynamic through and through.
The race for Governor of Texas is more of a landslide with the lead that Ron Drake has over Jim Bob Wilson. With seven months to go, Jim Bob would need a miracle, or maybe a little podirt, to have any chance at all. Crystal Moore, a good friend of Ron’s, is convinced that he will be the next governor and has come home to see if she can help him clinch the win. But their conversation is interrupted when Ron receives a distressed call from his friend Nat, saying something at Ron’s house has been stolen.
George Weeks and Ginnie Leverett are best friends and campaigners for Jim Bob Wilson. George has been through several campaigns before, but Ginnie is new to the political scene. So when George suggests a little podirt stunt, Ginnie isn’t so sure it’s a good idea and doesn’t want to get involved in anything illegal.
A political dirty trick, as George explains, is digging up or creating “dirt” on an opposing political candidate in order to decrease or drag down his/her numbers. George already has the perfect scheme planned out and assures Ginnie that no one will get hurt, and it will only help Jim Bob’s chances of winning. All they have to do is steal a painting from Drake, and make it look like he was trying to commit insurance fraud. Unfortunately, it doesn’t go as smoothly as planned and someone loses their life.
As the story unfolds we follow Crystal as she tries to look into the mystery behind the stolen painting, all while trying to keep Drake in the race. But as things spin out of control, one murder leading to another murder, Crystal finds herself as the next target. She keeps going, though, determined to help prove Ron Drake is innocent, but it may just cost her her life.
I truly enjoyed Political Dirty Trick. I’m not usually one to read political books, but this was more of a thriller or suspense, and the political issues were just the backdrop and setting for the story. James R. Callan is a terrific writer and has an incredible way of keeping the reader engaged from page one. It’s action-packed from the first sentence you read until the very last word, and the surprises just keep coming. I loved how the story wasn’t drawn out, but instead was fast paced and not full of extra “filler” material.
The characters were all well defined and interesting, creating great chemistry for the plot. When I finished this book I realized that this is the third book in a series. It is such a great stand-alone book, but I’m quite interested to read the other books in the Crystal Moore series. Callan graciously offers two excerpts from the previous books at the end of Political Dirty Trick. I highly recommend this book this book for anyone who loves thrillers. It is an easy and exciting read, sure to give you the suspense and drama you are looking for. Happy Reading.
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