After waking up with a strange taste in her mouth and mysterious bruises, former child pageant star Jessica Clink unwittingly begins an investigation into a nefarious deep state underworld. Equipped with the eccentric education of her father, Dr. Clink, Jessica uncovers a disquieting connection between her former life as a beauty queen and an offshoot of Project MKUltra known as MONARCH.
Irresistibly weird ... The kind of book that you want to start reading again immediately after turning the last page — not just to trace the conspiracy at its heart, but to appreciate how its kaleidoscope of beauty pageants, Y2K anxieties, famous dead girls, and deep state machinations synthesizes into an exploration of what makes up a self ... In the first half of Monarch, Wuehle conjures enthrallingly eccentric formative years for Jessica ... A far more interesting novel than the international espionage thriller it could have been without Wuehle's poetic, haunting touch ... Monarch is ultimately a story about stories.
As much as Monarch is a conspiracy-theory-thriller, inviting the possibility that an amorphous, terrible something in one’s environment might be located and made legible, it is also a story about piecing together the fuzzy impressions of childhood, watching as they form into a coherent whole the way a photo develops in a darkroom. Wuehle is masterful, in the first half of the novel, at conjuring a child’s perspective—one that perceives but can’t contextualize, that is vivid but uncritical ... a prose style with a certain lawlessness, one that might be irksome in the hands of a lesser writer. Wuehle, however, is an artisan; one senses while reading her that she has absolute control over the page—could conjure any emotion or image with startling concision, no matter how surreal or uncanny ... With the sure hand of an accomplished poet, Wuehle crafts a story that—with all its impossibilities—feels strikingly real ... The awful of Monarch—the great violence at the heart of it—certainly won’t come off easily, but will stick with its readers a long while after they turn the final page.
Ms. Wuehle pursues her gonzo premise with satirical gusto, mixing together some curious brew of Robert Ludlum and Don DeLillo ... For much of Monarch there’s nothing to do except surf the strangeness and enjoy the ride ... The strangeness takes the more familiar form of a thriller. But the writing is still animated by the inexplicable ... A lively debut.