So I went to the Watergate. I did it because it seemed the thing to do when one was just getting embroiled in some amazing Washington scandal. You don't hide out at the Hampton Inn; you go straight to the source, the same place Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy did.
There were other reasons for choosing the Watergate as well. I didn't want to drive far, and increase the chance of being pulled over and found out. Even if I had wanted to drive, I didn't know the suburbs that well, and the hotels probably weren't that much cheaper anyway. I knew of hotels I assumed to be cheaper in the city, but they were in such wonderful neighborhoods that I didn't want to take the chance of avoiding my pursuers only to succumb to some random mugging. I also knew right where it was, and could get there without wasting a minute of time. I had been to the Watergate once before, to drink with my college friend Susan, so, along with remembering their overpriced gin and tonics, I knew it had a parking garage the size of Philadelphia, which would probably keep my car from being discovered during the night. And most importantly, I thought it would be really cool to stay at the Watergate.
Trent Norris is not crazy about living in Washington, D. C. He's working as an intern at the National Endowment for the Arts , which isn't horrible -- but the general atmosphere, the parking, the expenses and so on -- it's just not for him. He has a plan for what to do to get out, but we're not really told what that might be (later, there's discussion of an unsuccessful novel -- that might be part of it). He likes his job well enough, he's started dating someone that he could see himself falling for in a big way -- so life's not all bad.
The day after one of the best dates of his life, Norris is covering the desk and phone for a higher-up's secretary, and is in the right place at the wrong time to take the wrong phone call. Then, because he's just that kind of guy, he plays a silly prank as a feeble act of protest for a decision the same higher-up just made that will impact people all over the country. As pranks are wont to do, this one is mis-interpreted and Norris finds himself framed for heinous crimes he didn't commit -- and plenty of media coverage demonstrating that he did. He enlists the help of an escort, Tabitha, to help him in his time of need -- which she more than does.
Running from the Law -- he's out to prove he didn't do it, clear his name, not get killed by law enforcement...and hopefully still have a shot at getting the girl.
As disinterested as I was in the crime (which was sensational, but seemed almost tertiary to everything), as much as I cared nothing for the protagonist, once I got to the part where things are falling apart for Norris, when he's starting to see the accusations pile up, I really admired the way Wiley had set everything up. It was very well constructed and executed.
Until I was typing this post up and read the Publisher's Description, I had no idea when this was set. A reference to Borders Bookstore threw me, and little later, I noticed the utter lack of cell and/or smartphones. A few chapters later the protagonists ordered a laptop with a Zip drive and floppy disks! Wow. I didn't realize I was reading historical fiction. Taking me out of the action long enough to flip back and forth through the pages looking for time references . A little more text on page 1 would've gone a long way to help the reader (or, at least, me).
Early on, Norris rubbed me the wrong way, and while I didn't like him, I found the situation he was in interesting enough to keep going. Some of his redeeming -- humanizing -- qualities were brought out late in the book, but by that point it was hard to overcome my initial misgivings. Stephanie was nice enough -- not that we got to spend much time with her. Tabitha was the only character I really liked at all -- even if she seemed to serve as a shortcut more often than not for Trent to get what he needs -- oh, you need a hacker? Let me make a call. How do we bypass a security system? I have just the client willing to do me a favor? And so on. (and maybe the large amount of gold content in her heart was difficult to believe). Still, she was more interesting and likable than anyone else around.
This was a great depiction of the havoc that the media (especially in a 24-hour news cycle) can wreak on an individual with very little evidence -- see Richard Jewell, for example. Wiley seemed to capture the impotent rage and disbelief at how quickly one's whole life can be turned upside down in hours when the media decides you're the villain.
Just entertaining enough, just well-written enough, with characters just intersesting enough to keep the pages turning -- Wiley gives the reader just enough to entertain, and be open to reading more from him. I do want to stress, how well constructed this was -- every seemingly stray detail is there for a reason, and no strings are left untied. I've read novels from seasoned authors that can't pull off that level of construction, and Wiley doing so in his first time to bat is no small thing.
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair review.