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Book Review: “State of Terror”, by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny

But don’t worry too much about keeping things clear. It’s a frolic. The authors have a lot of fun throwing up red herrings. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence mutually suspect each other of treason. Who is lying? Who will win the first fight that breaks out in the White House? And what about the president, who himself seems a bit sketchy?

Credit…Dominique Lafond and Deborah Feingold

Like Agatha Christie’s old Miss Marple, who hid her sharp wit under a twittering exterior to foil the parade of murderers invading her tiny village, Ellen uses her status as a seemingly uncontrollable middle-aged woman as a stealth weapon, leaving no one behind. his ego never gets in his way.

“Maxim Ivanov stood in the middle of the room, motionless. Force Ellen to come to him, which she did. These petty gestures, intended to insult her, had no effect on her, ”write the authors. Ellen knows that men like Ivanov, the Russian president, “would always underestimate and underestimate women.”

Ellen also does not whitewash when the British Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs complains about the methods of Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency. “He seemed to have forgotten that Ellen had said exactly that a few minutes earlier,” the authors write.

Ellen gets help outsmarting men from Betsy Jameson, her oldest friend and State Department advisor, who serves as her cheerleader, advisor, and quiet partner. Their relationship is delicious. (Wait until you read the corny code they are using to verify their communications.) The scene in which Betsy, back at the State Department, hides the fact that she is illegally searching for classified information by making it appear that she hanging out and playing Candy Crush on her cell phone is utterly lovely.

Political junkies will appreciate veiled insults at real-life people. (Ha, do you think, as you read the authors disclaimer about all the characters being fictional.) There’s a chaotic ‘upper class idiot’ of a British Prime Minister hiding his essential void by churning out “random Latin phrases”. The Russian president is a ruthless calculating tyrant who has driven the previous US administration in circles.

Clinton and Penny reserve their darkest hue for former President Eric Dunn, a prickly and bombastic one-termer who has shredded the country’s reputation and retired to Florida to sulk, play golf and prepare for his comeback. Of course, Dunn is charismatic, with an uncanny ability to exploit people’s weaknesses, but he’s also an idiot. Even his closest associates called him “Eric the dumb”.

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