Well. That was something.
This series used to be called Headline in Heels, which was never a good choice as it gave the wrong impression. When Walker and Henery Press parted ways, Severn River picked the series up and gave it a spiffy, but darker, look and thankfully renamed the series to just the very dignified "Nichelle Clarke" series.
Deadly Politics is the first new entry in the series under the new publisher and I was both curious and reticent to find out how that would effect the series' tone. It's always been so much meatier and edgier than the original series name and covers led readers to believe, but these new covers feel like shades of Patterson, or Grisham and I'm not a fan of Patterson and Grisham (except Pelican Brief); they're do deadly earnest and take themselves so seriously. Would the new story conform to the new look and lose the breath of lightness and humor previous books have had?
Thankfully, not. Even the MC's affinity for expensive shoes remains (in the form of odd exclamations). But this is definitely a darker story and it's definitely a thriller. This combination of breeziness and intrigue turned out to be catnip for me - thrillers and I grew apart and went our seperate ways back in the 90's, but Deadly Politics sucked me right back in and kept me glued to the pages, snarling at anyone who attempted to interrupt me.
(As I finished this last night, the look on my face must have said it all, as MT quietly walked up, counted the pages I had remaining (without disturbing my reading - kudos to that man!), and softly whispered: "I'll hold dinner until you're done." Dear Reader, I married him. And now you know why.)
Now, in the cold light of a new day and firmly planted back in reality, I still feel like this was an unbelievably gripping story. Was the premise over the top, maybe a little? Yes. Please god, let it have been over the top. But in the moment I didn't care if it was or not - I just had to find out what was going to happen next. The action started in the first chapter and never let up; things never stopped happening, and the story never stopped becoming more intricately complex. By the end, Nichelle herself summed up the story perfectly:
"Oh, you've got to be fucking kidding me."
This wasn't the perfect story; it's amazingly written, but there were a couple of errors in continuity. A reference to an early-story character named Jerry is referred to later as Jake, which had me scrambling through the pages trying to figure out who this new person was, and as the story got really tense the writing became a little too staccato, making me unsure of who was doing what, or saying something at times. These moment probably didn't make up more than 1% of the text though, and I consider them to fall into the normal margin of error.
I didn't go the full 5 stars for two reasons. While I definitely enjoyed the heart stopping ride, Walker sacrificed a certain amount of believability to achieve it. I respect this is a judgement call, and it's not as if it didn't work - it's just that the story line might have packed a different, far more confronting punch had she gone a different direction.
This story ends on a slightly bittersweet note, the kind of note that authors generally use as a setup for "character development" of the kind that usually involves screwing with the MC's love life. LynDee Walker has not historically gone the predictable route with this character, and I'm going to remain optimistic that she continues to buck the trends; I like Nichelle and Joey and I don't need their relationship to be fraught with romantic complications to make their story interesting.
Either way, I cannot wait to find out what happens next.