The debut political thriller from CNN's chief Washington correspondent. After a mysterious fatal car accident kills his predecessor, Congressman Charlie Marder struggles to navigate the dangerous waters of 1950s Washington, D.C., where he finds an underworld of backroom deals, secret societies, and a conspiracy at the highest levels of the government.
Jake Tapper proves he has the page-turning knack in his entertaining debut novel ... Tapper has a flair for Mad Men-esque ’50s flourishes, though he writes through a modern prism that can be jarring ... It’s only April, but Tapper’s thriller has beach-read written all over it. And I think the author has a good feeling about Charlie Marder’s future (as he should), because this Club ends with an invitation to a sequel.
As openings go, this is terrific — a handful of taut pages steamed with confusion, sex and dread. But no sooner does Charlie climb out of that ditch than this novel careens into another one and stays there, spinning its wheels for 150 pages of leaden back story before we finally arrive again at that fateful morning crash ... Once all this cloak-and-dagger is methodically laid out, The Hellfire Club finally lurches into the crazy Dan Brownish adventure it was meant to be ... As the country’s future hangs in the balance, Tapper dutifully attends to the clashing racial attitudes of the era. Charlie, precocious as ever, possesses all the enlightened attitudes of a Brooklyn barista in 2018...I’m not complaining. The Hellfire Club is most enjoyable when it’s most groan-worthy.
As a novelist, he makes the rookie mistake of loading every interesting fact he could muster into a plot that can barely support the weight ... Tapper’s interweaving of the usual motives of power and money with the much more sinister pressures of the Red Scare ought to make for much more excitement than it does. It doesn’t help that some characters are so conventionally drawn ... Tapper’s awkwardness with his fictitious characters can improve. His acuity with historical resonance doesn’t have to ... Tapper did not have to include endnotes clarifying facts he modified and details on sources, but the notes are very winning. They reveal his tremendous enthusiasm for this work.