To Go: 78
21. The First Deadly Sin — Lawrence Sanders
22. Exclusive — Sandra Brown
I’ve come to realize that I’m horrible at reading the books in the order I bought them: there are books I’ve had on my shelf for more than a year now, yet I decided to flip through Sandra Brown’s Exclusive first, despite having just bought it just a few days ago. However, I don’t regret my decision.
In Exclusive, Barrie Travis, a reporter whose stunning fall from grace made her the laughingstock of the Washington press and landed her at a low-budget television station, is shocked when she receives a call from the First Lady, who offers her the story of a lifetime. Still grieving the loss of her infant son, the president’s wife suggests that he may have been murdered. Barrie sets out to find the truth, and teams up with the (somewhat reluctant) Gray Bondurant, a mysterious former presidential aide whose romantic history with the first lady is an open secret. But soon Barrie and Gray realize that what they unearth has the potential to topple the presidency—and put both of them in serious danger.
Sandra Brown is quickly becoming my favourite author. Like her other two novels I’ve read, Exclusive is a tightly written page-turner that nicely combines the central mystery with a not-too-intrusive burgeoning romance, to create a thriller that sizzles with sexual tension. And the story delivers on its promise of political drama and intrigue: there’s enough murder and corruption to fill a whole season of Scandal, and plenty of big reveals for Barrie and the reader to stumble into.
Barrie herself is a fantastic character, because, while she’s a good journalist with a great hunch for a big story, she acts too fast, and presumes too much: what made her the whipping girl of the Washington press is the same mistake that gets her again halfway through the novel, but it’s an endearing flaw. She can also be seen as a stand-in for the reader: just like someone reading the book for the first time, Barrie can tell something big is happening, but connects the wrong dots. And gets penalized for it. Fortunately, she has Gray to set her back on the right path—but not even he’s able to catch the biggest liar in the White House, a twist that Brown leaves for the last page of the book, and is far too delicious to reveal.
Next book: either White Hot by Sandra Brown, or Easy Money by Jens Lapidus.