REVIEW: Deep State by Chris Hauty

In brief: Hayley Chill is an intern in a controversial president’s White House. But when the Chief of Staff is killed, it’s clear that something is happening to try to undermine the president.

The good: Very detailed descriptions of everything.

The not-so-good: The ending is clever, but I couldn’t help but feel a bit ripped off for not having that insight before.

Why I chose it: I enjoy political thrillers. Thanks to Simon & Schuster for the ARC.

Year: 2020

Pages: 281 (ARC)

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Setting: Primarily Washington DC, USA

Rating: 7 out of 10

Recent years have had global politics at the forefront of everyone’s minds so it’s natural that people would want to read more political thrillers (myself included). Chris Hauty’s debut novel Deep State takes the idea of an unpopular president and a secret, influential group who want to remove him from power to restore order to the United States. Is this a noble idea or just plain weird?

Hayley Chill is in the US Army, known for her boxing skills and quick wits. When she decides to leave the army, she turns up months later at the White House as an intern. She’s different to the others, as she’s not rich, connected or a college graduate. But she is very efficient and catches the eye of the president after she helps catch an intruder. But when a routine drop off of documents to the president’s Chief of Staff finds him to be dead in suspicious circumstances, Hayley finds herself in increasing danger. There is a plot to kill the president and some very important people are involved. Can Hayley discover the plot and foil it? As she continues to seek the truth, she finds that she can trust no-one. But it’s after everything is revealed that the biggest spoilers of all occur… (I’m not revealing them in this review, as they are definitely the most interesting part of the book).

Deep State is an interesting addition to the political thriller genre, as it goes beyond the ‘somebody is trying to kill the president’ trope and added several more layers. The writing is also much more detailed than other books I’ve read in the genre. Sometimes, it’s a bit too detailed for me such as telling the reader about what will happen to minor characters in the future. At first I was interested, but when those characters disappeared off into the snowy Washington weather and didn’t come back I wondered whether that it was something that the reader really did need to know. There is also a lot of description of setting, which again is good initially but kind of made the book drag in bits. (Also I kind of hope that it’s not too correct when it comes to the White House…) The writing is also mainly in the present tense which I know is annoying for some readers. For me, it was fairly easy to get past. The plot is quite slow for the first half, but it’s the ending which really makes Deep State pop. I did feel a little ripped off that Hayley was somewhat of an unreliable narrator but this kind of writing, plot and subterfuge was stellar! It made up for some of the slower parts of the novel.

Hayley is a unique character with skills beyond your army veteran/tough kid. I felt Hauty did well in portraying her character, in particular her strengths. She didn’t really have too many weaknesses or vulnerable moments – perhaps that is for a future book? She can carry the whole narrative well. As for the President, he is meant to be divisive but it didn’t really come across that well. Hayley seems to support him because he’s ex-Army but others are vocal in their dislike. His main criticism seems to be that he invited the Russian president to the White House and didn’t take action in some events in Estonia attributed to the Russians. It’s all left quite open to the reader to decide.

Deep State is a slow burn. If you like your thrillers detailed and carefully plotted, you will enjoy it.

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