Simon & Schuster | 2020 (23 January) | 384p | Review copy | Buy the book
America has a new President, Richard Monroe, who has some controversial and populist policies in mind that worry the establishment, the Deep State that runs the country from behind the scenes. Hayley Chill, ex-army and boxer, is thrown into the heart of a White House in turmoil when she becomes its newest intern. There’s something about Hayley that gets herself noticed – her photographic memory, her eye for detail, her looks, her plain talking and her military precision and determination – and this makes her unpopular with many. This is a competitive world and they’re envious. But these traits also attract the attention of not only the Chief of Staff but also the President himself. Hayley’s career looks set to soar until the day when she arrives at the house of the Chief of Staff to deliver some papers and discovers him dead. The authorities think it’s a natural death but Hayley, who found a footprint in the snow outside, thinks differently. When she begins to question it people die and, from that moment on, Hayley knows that to survive she must work out who wants the Chief of Staff dead. What she will discover is unthinkable.
I’m a huge fan of political thrillers and Deep State is most assuredly one of the best I’ve read. It opens spectacularly with our memorable introduction to Hayley Chill, soldier and fighter, and from that minute on we are as fascinated by Hayley as we are hooked by the thriller. Hayley is a remarkable figure. In many ways she goes against the stereotype of a West House intern. She’s underestimated by almost everyone as a southern redneck, perhaps she even underestimates herself, but her talents are astonishing. She’s an unusual person, she has her routines and rituals, her rules and obsessions, and she is immensely driven and extremely good at her job. When she fears that the President may be the next target for the assassin we know that she’ll stop at nothing to protect him. Hayley Chill attracts attention. Her position is increasingly dangerous and extreme. Her story is utterly gripping.
Deep State has a fantastic plot. It’s complex and there are surprises so extreme it can take your breath away. This actually happened to me at one point. I was reading it on the bus and had to put it down to gather my thoughts and laugh in admiration! I was impressed! It’s not often I’m completely blindsided by a book.
I loved the Washington and Camp David settings. The summer is turning to winter and the heat is turning to cold and snow. There’s such a sense of place with the descriptions of rooms inside the White House, the upstairs and downstairs feel of it, especially for the interns who find themselves confined to the deepest basement. It’s a stratified world with the interns at the very bottom and the President at the very top but Hayley is to discover that not all is as it seems, that the power might not lay where one expects it. It’s a minefield and Hayley is the one best suited to negotiate it and it’s riveting watching her do it.
Chris Hauty writes very well indeed and Deep State is superb. Hayley Chills in particular is a fine achievement. I would love to meet her again and soon. I’ll certainly be keeping my eyes open for any future novels by this excellent writer.