Book Report: Dead Watch by John Sandford (2006)

Oh, spare me. Is there any damn thriller writer operating after 2000 who doesn’t feel compelled to take shots at Republicans and/or President Bush? Because Ed McBain did it, and Robert B. Parker does it, and with this book, Sandford gets his digs in. We’ve got the closeted gay rich former Senator and his circle of evil gay Republicans, we’ve got the clandestine meeting with an RNC official at the museum because nobody from his work goes there (maybe it would be better for the Republic if they did, haw haw!). Hey, did you know the RNC HQ was reinforced because a teacher tried to blow himself up at it to protest Republican educational policies (I don’t blame him, says the first person narrator). Don’t get me wrong, Sandford has his bad apples in the Democrat party, too, but they’re bad apples, gun nuts, and thugs in the party; it’s not the party itself nor its views that are a priori bad. Does Sandford think he can get away with it because he thinks that Republicans aren’t literate enough to read books not written by Ann Coulter? Or does he think we should be thick-skinned enough to take a joke, even though we take that damned joke every day in the media, from the government, and throughout the Internet? I don’t know, but jeez, I lost a lot of respect for Sandford.

That diatribe aside, this book distills most of the bad aspects of a Lucas Davenport number and transplants it to Washington, perhaps so Sandford can become a national thriller writer and not a regional author. There’s a crime, or series thereof, but the book spends an awful lot of time worrying not about right or wrong or serving justice, but serving political ends. How will this play? How will that play? How should the hero do this to minimize political fallout? And so on. I can take some of that in a Davenport novel because they weren’t always that way, and if I read them out of order, I can mix in the better novels with the lessers. But here, Sandford dangles it all out. A disabled Afghanistan vet now works as a fixer for the White House Chief of Staff and has to investigate the disappearance of the closeted gay rich Republican former Senator who might have a politically damaging “package”–evidence of corruption–that could hurt the reelection chances of the President. His first goal is to protect the Democrats in power, natch.

After a while and some more dead gay Republicans, the situation is resolved with the stock ambush-in-the-woods.

So, Sandford, how come all the veterans in the book are disabled Afghanistan vets except for, you know, the psychotic ones?

Ah, who knows. I’m glad this Sandford book is the last on my unread shelves for now. I think I’d be a better person, and at least in a better mood, if it were still up there.

Meanwhile, I think I’ll confine myself to old crime fiction again, back before they were compelled to attack the political beliefs of roughly half of the country.

Or Robert Crais, who hasn’t done this sort of thing so far. I hope I didn’t just out somebody.

Books mentioned in this review: