Hillary Clinton and Louise Penny’s new thriller contains a “reckless” Trump-like figure – among many other things.
State of Terror, co-written by the former Secretary of State and the award-winning Canadian author, was released on Tuesday (12 October) by Simon & Schuster in the US and Pan Macmillan in the UK.
It takes place “after a tumultuous period in American politics” and centres around an international crisis for which the US government turns out to be woefully unprepared.
Here is everything you need to know about the new novel:
1. One of the characters might ring a bell
Seth Meyers asked Clinton and Penny questions about the new book on his late-night show on Monday, singling out one character in particular.
“There’s a character who is a former president who is reckless,” he said. “He’s from Palm Beach. Was he inspired by anyone?”
This appeared to be a reference to Donald Trump, who relocated to the Florida town when his presidency ended in January this year.
“He’s fictional, Seth,” Clinton said. “However, having lived through the prior four years… it wasn’t too hard to imagine. And the president is someone who gets the country into a lot of trouble – some of it of his own making, and some of it because he doesn’t understand how other bad actors are actually using him.”
Thinking about this “fictional former president” wasn’t “too difficult” a task for herself and Penny, Clinton added.
2. Louise Penny is a household name and a friend of Clinton’s
Penny is the award-winning author behind the Chief Inspector Gamache Series. Its 17th and most recent instalment, The Madness of Crowds, was released this summer to wide acclaim.
She and Clinton met in early 2017 after being introduced by Betsy Ebeling, Clinton’s longtime best friend, with whom Clinton had read Penny’s books.
“That’s when Hillary and I just connected so deeply,” Penny told People of the encounter. At the time, Penny’s husband had recently died, and Clinton had lost the 2016 presidential election. “It would’ve been easy not to [connect] and to continue to have Betsy as the intermediary,” Penny added. “But I think we were just two wounded women who understood that deep wound, that deep hurt that we both had.”
3. It features an intricate, international conspiracy
In State of Terror, Ellen Adams, a newly appointed Secretary of State, must work with her team, including young Foreign Service Officer Anahita Dahir, to defeat a series of international threats.
“What begins as a series of apparent terrorist attacks is revealed to be the beginning of an international chess game involving the volatile and Byzantine politics of Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran; the race to develop nuclear weapons in the region; the Russian mob; a burgeoning rogue terrorist organization; and an American government set back on its heels in the international arena,” reads the book’s description.
“As the horrifying scale of the threat becomes clear, Secretary Adams and her team realise it has been carefully planned to take advantage of four years of an American government out of touch with international affairs, out of practice with diplomacy, and out of power in the places where it counts the most.”
4. What have reviewers said so far?
State of Terror has earned praise from reviewers.
“State of Terror may bring Penny into new fictional territory, but her imprint is everywhere,” Sarah Lyall wrote in The New York Times. “The emotional cast to the writing, the tendency to dangle portents and wait some time before resolving them, the depiction of friendship, the short paragraphs, the philosophical aperçus — these are all marks of Penny’s writing.”
“The real key to State of Terror, though, is its secret weapon: female friendship,” Ron Charles wrote in The Washington Post. “Despite exploding buses and the grim prospect of nuclear annihilation, these pages are leavened by Ellen’s trusty sidekick, a retired schoolteacher based on a real-life friend of Clinton. International terrorists may have all the materials they need for a dirty bomb, but America has these two middle-aged women with a plan.”
“The novel’s closing pages hint of more books to come. There is ample reason to hope that, with more careful editing and further Adams adventures, the Clinton/Penny collaboration will become stronger,” Paula L Woods wrote in the Los Angeles Times. “State of Terror unites two writers who advocate the same core values while possessing complementary world views across multiple borders.”
State of Terror is out at Simon & Schuster in the US and Pan Macmillan in the UK.