Title: Dead Politician Society
Author: Robin Spano
Synopsis (Courtesy of Powell’s Books): “When the mayor keels over dead in the middle of a speech, a clandestine student society immediately takes credit for his demise. Their mission is to create a perfect political system by any means at their disposal. Clare Vengel, a rookie officer fresh from the police academy and beyond bored with her routine as a beat cop, volunteers to go undercover as a student to infiltrate the secretive organization. A streetwise amateur mechanic, Clare takes a dim view of book smarts—she is of the opinion that higher education is for people who can’t handle the real world. In short order, she alienates a popular professor and begins to lose the respect of her police superiors. Soon, another politician is killed, and Clare steps up her clandestine involvement with the suspect students. When two more politicians die, the race begins to apprehend the culprits before her own duplicity can be revealed.”
Thoughts: Filled with twists and turns, shadowy characters and situations that are not as they seem, Dead Politician Society is what one expects from a mystery. Yet, it is so much more. Subtle in its intricacies, each character peels back the layers of the mystery, unveiling a welcome depth to the story.
Dead Politician Society is told from the point of view of multiple characters. While this can be a bit confusing in the beginning, it allows the story to become character-driven rather than action-driven. In fact, the entire story is reminiscent of The Moonstone in that the action occurs behind the scenes. In turn, the reader builds a relationship with each of the characters, driving the discoveries and adding complexity to the tale.
The mystery itself is quite interesting. It involves politics not typically seen in any novel, if ever, which lends a unique air to the story. Similarly, the use of multiple points of view highlights the different motives for the murders. Unfortunately, this also means that shrewd readers will be able to solve the mystery well before the big reveal. However, rather than detracting from the story, this adds to the reader’s enjoyment, making the story almost interactive in nature.
Since Dead Politician Society is character-driven, a reader’s enjoyment of the story hinges on one’s engagement to each of the characters. The main character, Clare Vengel, is brash, tough, quick to judge and quick to react. Everything about her is over-the-top, from her determination to win, her determination to drown her sorrows, her determination to project a tough demeanor to her determination to solve the case. I, unfortunately, found Clare to have a huge chip on her shoulder, making it difficult for me to like her, let alone root for her to solve the case. However, the beauty of character-driven novels is that each reader will react differently to each character. Someone I may not like may be a character that others love and vice versa. With novels like this, reactions to characters are key.
Dead Politician Society is set in Canada, and Ms. Spano does an excellent job of highlighting the differences between Canadian and U.S. societies. The politics mentioned are uniquely Canadian, discussing various reforms and government seats that exist only in Canada. The verbiage too is different, although not as drastic as a novel set in England. The differences are slight but there, serving as a reminder that Canada is indeed not the U.S.
Overall, Dead Politician Society is a great addition to the mystery genre. Smart and well-written, Ms. Spano utilizes the most up-to-date politics to drive this modern murder mystery. Using the points-of-view of multiple characters, she creates a story in which the reader is actively engaged and involved, rounding out a story for any type of reader. Readers everywhere will fall in love with Clare and cheer her on as she works to solve her first case. For true lovers of the genre, Dead Politician Society will become a must-read.
Thank you to NetGalley for my review copy!