Steinhauer traces the rise and fall of a domestic left-wing terrorist group from the perspectives of an FBI agent, an undercover agent within the group, a convert to the terrorist organization, and a writer on the edges of the whole affair.
The Middleman is smart and entertaining and consistently intriguing, clipping along in brief chapters, somewhat reminiscent of the novels of James Patterson, and often animated by lovely, spare descriptive writing ... Yet because the premise of The Middleman is so audacious and because its point of view is fragmented, the novel doesn’t fully exhibit the propulsive force of some of Steinhauer’s spy fiction ... What makes up for that is the neat feat of asking serious political questions without burdening the suspense. In an era of rising income inequality, of unlimited corporate spending on campaign messaging that allows the richest forces in our society to gain unprecedented political power, of voters left and right rallying to outcries about a corrupt system and Washington as a swamp in search of a drain, why can no unity be forged between the viewers of Fox News and MSNBC, who instead prefer mutual vilification? ... The Middleman is a very good trip.
The result is an interesting but rather strange novel set in an alternative political reality ... Ultimately, Steinhauer’s story is that of a struggle between good and evil, as Rachel and Weaver face off against wife-beaters, police brutality, political corruption, bureaucratic duplicity and even rape in Africa. His plot is at times improbable and his narrative could stand some cutting, but...this remains a thought-provoking political thriller, a dark story for dark times.
When it comes to peaceful protests versus acts of domestic terrorism, where does one draw the line? That’s one of the fundamental questions asked early on in Steinhauer’s thought-provoking story ... Not only is Steinhauer’s story current, full of themes playing out across the country today, but in a rather unprecedented move, he covers the entire plot from all angles. Readers get to view the conflict through the eyes of an FBI agent, an undercover operative, a convert to the organization, and a writer closely following the story as it unfolds. Each character is expertly developed and provides a raw, unvarnished perspective that makes it challenging, at times, for readers to know who the bad guys really are ... smart, well-written ... you’d be hard pressed to find a better standalone thriller hitting bookstores in 2018.