Review of State of Terror, by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny, read by Joan Allen

State of Terror

by Hillary Rodham Clinton
and Louise Penny
read by Joan Allen

Simon & Schuster Audio, 2021. 15 hours, 41 minutes on 13 CDs.
Review written May 27, 2022, from a library audiobook

Normally I would never check out a novel written by a celebrity, but the pairing with Louise Penny, a distinguished mystery writer, was enough to intrigue me. Surely a former Secretary of State can write very convincingly about plausible terrorist threats.

Actually, it’s a little too convincing. The story begins with a female secretary of state recently appointed by her political rival. The new president appointed Ellen Adams essentially to ruin her political power, and they don’t like each other very well. The narrator sounded a lot like Hillary Clinton, and the set-up got me wondering if Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama had disliked each other as much as the two characters do.

But the characters are in a very different situation. The previous president was “Eric Dunn,” and they go on about what an incompetent buffoon he was. There’s another scene that includes the president of Russia, I guy named Ivanov, who is portrayed as pure evil. Mind you, the secretary of state gets the better of both of them! How much is that wish fulfillment fantasy and how much is it just rational commentary on what the world could be like after our last president?

I didn’t think the writing was stellar, and the plot had things about it that I can nitpick and also that I did see coming, but it certainly held my interest and kept me awake on my commute.

Shortly after the book starts, a large bomb goes off in Europe, followed by another. And then they get evidence there will be a third bomb, and it’s going to happen on the same bus in Frankfurt where Ellen Adams’ reporter son has been following a lead.

But that’s only the beginning. Who is responsible for the bombs? And what are their plans now?

It was probably a little self-indulgent of the author to make it the female secretary of state who figures out the answers and deals with tyrants and saves the day. I mean, why not write a book where the hero reminds everyone of you?

I don’t think I’m giving anything away when I reveal that some of the villains are right-wing idealists in the United States, even in positions of power. They’re willing to work with Al Qaida and bring terror to American soil if it will put a liberal president out of power and start things fresh, back to “real” America.

This was published in October 2021, and would have been written well before that. I thought it was interesting that even in this scenario, the authors didn’t think of having the right-wing talking about election fraud. And they talked about the danger that the Taliban would take over Afghanistan when they had to pull out troops based on the deal made by “Eric Dunn.”

So it was all rather disturbing. And probably a touch too realistic.

I don’t think there’s any danger that people who are politically conservative will want to read this book. If you pretty much agree with Hillary Clinton’s assessment of Donald Trump, I mean “Eric Dunn,” then this book emphasizes how many bad results could still come to pass from his presidency.

But try to listen to it as a realistic thriller of what could have happened, but is not happening in real life.

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Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but the views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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