The idea of corruption in government is hardly a novel thought, and it has been tackled from every imaginable angle, but in these hyper-charged modern times, a bit of escapism to an even more tangled world can be a treat. In The People’s House by David Pepper, an unlikely reporter has one final shot at a career-making scoop, and a chance to save democracy in this generation.
The familiar scene of a campaign reporter, Jack Sharpe, drinking himself silly at bars and feeling dissatisfied with the state of the political world eases readers into the tone of the story – and the mind of the protagonist – but the writing flexes its muscles early. The crisp descriptions and natural dialogue, as well as the great pacing of the exposition, all get this book off to a great start.
The trail of mystery begins early for readers, with mysterious election results suddenly granting Republicans control of the country, in essence, along with the book’s prologue hinting at a deadly “accident.” Jack Sharpe may be nearing his swan song as a reporter, but with every door he opens into the series of inexplicable events, he tumbles a bit further down the rabbit hole. The scandal he begins to uncover is massive, toxic and potentially deadly.
For every ambitious, specialized novel, the devil is always in the details, but the author writes with complete confidence and thorough knowledge of the journalistic world. Details on the research involved in an investigation, the back channel connections used by political journalists, and the general understanding of the “sleuthing” process earns the author a tip of the cap, as every aspect of this novel seemed well planned and intentional.
The plot thickens constantly, growing wider and more expansive in terms of both geography and story depth. Jack Sharpe dives into incredibly dangerous waters in his search for the truth, and must be careful not to lose his own life, while also knocking this career-making story out of the park. It’s a classic political thriller, not high on traditional action, but packed with intense moments that often feel just as good as any car chase.
The book is incredibly rich – perhaps detailed to a fault. While the novel isn’t sluggish in terms of pace, the author does include many smaller scenes and interactions that could have been expedited or cut short to move the plot along a bit more fluidly. The author clearly had a masterful outline, given how all the plot lines and engagements flows so perfectly together, but at some point there comes a time for every author to “kill your darlings.” A sharp editorial sword could have trimmed a bit of the fat, but what remains on the page doesn’t diminish the quality of the story.
The contemporary nature of The People’s House is also welcome, as political thrillers and mysterious backdoor dealings of Washington are popular topics in recent months and years. By creating a fictional scenario and allowing conspiratorial ideas to flourish and grow within the characters, Pepper provides a cathartic and timely adventure where readers can dispel some of their fears about the real world, or at least help them forget for a little while. This is meticulously written escapism with dynamic characters, believable twists and a consistent style of writing that is both spontaneous and memorable.