“If any of us get caught or killed,” Ian said, “the secretary will disavow any knowledge of our actions.”
“Who is the secretary?” [CIA Director] Healy asked.
“I don’t know,” Ian said. “It’s what the boss on the recording says to Peter Graves on every episode of Mission: Impossible, right before he wishes him luck and the tape explodes.”
“This isn’t a TV show,” Healy said. “This is reality.”
“You say that like there’s still a difference.”
Too often lately, life has been like one of Ian Ludlow's novels come to life. Which is a lot of pressure to work under, so much so that he's in danger of missing a deadline to submit his next book, without even getting it started.
Meanwhile, Wang Mei, the Chinese actress Ludlow recently helped defect, needs a job. And she's decided that seducing him is the way to achieve that. Ludlow's got connections, and he happens to be the only American she knows who trusts her. Ludlow is actually pretty easy to seduce, not only does he help her get a job on a TV show, he helps her with some PR to rehabilitate her image (with CIA guidance).
But back to the main story, Margo gets Ludlow brainstorming like he used to—not only to get a novel working, but she's pretty sure that he'll end up stumbling over an assignment so she can exercise her new-found skills. The official blurb sums up what they stumble upon in 1/3 of the words I'd take, so let's use it:
...the connection between a barbaric drug lord in Mexico, a homicidal rapist in California, a rogue citizens army in Texas, a raging TV pundit in New York, and two dead tourists in Portugal…before the President of the United States makes a catastrophic mistake that could resurrect the Soviet Union.
That sounds utterly ludicrous, but as things unfold it seems utterly plausible—and like something only a guy like Ludlow could uncover. And when it comes time for Ludlow and Margo (with help from Wang Mei and Ronnie Mancuso)* to stop this plot—the brakes come off and things get really ridiculous. I had a blast with it.
* I was really glad to see him again, by the way, he's a fun character
Mark Twain wrote, " Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn’t." (and others have said similar things, but my rule is quote Twain as often as possible) Fake Truth is another bit of evidence of that. As outlandish as a lot of the plot points and technology in the book seems, Goldberg has talked in interviews about how all of the tech exists, and that he had to keep changing parts of the novel when the parallels between truth and his fiction got a bit too close. This reminds me of the Leverage creators talking about how they had to take real crimes and scale them back to use them in the show because they seemed unbelievable otherwise. Thinking about the events of the book—either mid-read or after—and knowing that there's a very strong possibility that things like this have and are happening? It's truly disturbing. It makes you want to jump into novels.
Anyway, back to this novel—Goldberg once again pulls off this great magic trick by taking a ridiculous plot and goofy humor and somehow creating a solid thriller. I've seen others try this and it doesn't work out quite as well. If he can keep this up, I'll come back as long as he's able to publish these. Laughs and action, characters you can enjoy (even if you don't think you'd want to be anywhere near them in real life)—Fake Truth is a great way to spend some time.