The Coalition by Samuel Marquis is a complex but fast-paced conspiracy thriller about a political assassination. Moderate Republican president-elect Krieger is shot down in Denver by a ruthless female assassin. FBI agent Kenneth Patton tries to hunt her down and becomes embroiled in a far larger conspiracy than one lone assassin. A group called The Coalition is bent on bringing about a far-right government in Washington, and they’re not content with just one assassination. Locke needs to find the assassin, uncover the Coalition’s plot, and make sure the death toll doesn’t go even higher.
Marquis knows his stuff: the interworkings of the FBI, the religious dogma of the far-right organization, and all the minor details that go into a political assassination. The assassin is particularly engaging and unique: a female assassin who is an expert markswoman, but who is also deeply conflicted. With a far-right antagonist, the book could have been overly partisan, but he fleshes out the motives for each one of his characters to such a degree that they all seem like real people, not just pawns in an author’s game.
The main issue with the book is many scenes go on longer than necessary, proving this book needed a good content edit. Clocking in at close to 500 pages, there is a lot of extraneous information that slows down the pace of the novel overall. In the first few chapters, Marquis ends two chapters with “even the best laid plans go awry” – about the same character. Such errors, along with some odd word choices, have a tendency to take a reader out of the novel.
While the book is authoritative about its subject, it’s almost authoritative to a fault – listing the brands of items, rather than describing them. This is often used to good effect in Dan Brown’s fiction, but it’s used here at times at the expense of more important description. For example, we’re told that the assassin is wearing a disguise, plus the brand of binoculars she’s using, but no description until much later what the disguise is. That the disguise turns out to be clever and inventive shows that the book is entertaining, but just a bit disorganized.
Marquis is at his best when he injects human interest into his tale of Machiavellian power plays. Each character in his thriller has to battle heady personal issues, giving the plot increased immediacy and emotional weight. This is even true of Bradford Locke, who heads up the Coalition, and who’s also dealing with his daughter’s teen pregnancy. A lesser writer might not write someone with such vicious motives as also having inner conflict. This heightens the realism and drama, when it could have devolved into black-and-white partisan attack.
Most often, the amount of detail draws you into the story and colors every moment. Marquis’ conspiracy is prescient and plausible, and well-drawn. Each one of his characters has uniquely interesting motivations. The novel just needs to be pared down to help with pacing. In the end, the quality of Marquis’ characterization and storytelling outweighs the book’s faults. If you’re in the mood for a complex and engrossing assassination thriller with a unique twist, The Coalition is a very good place to start.
Samuel Marquis Books.com
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