THE CANDIDATE is the second book in Lisa Wiehl's Newsmaker series. Since I had not read the first book, it took me a bit to synthesize all the details of main character Erica Sparks' life -- her former problems with alcohol, her past success as a reporter, her rise to cable news fame, her long distance engagement, and her insecurity over being a mother. As those details fell into place, I was drawn into the story. Erica is set to do up-close interviews with the 3 leading presidential candidates
(1 Republican, 2 Democratic) when a bomb goes off at a Democratic rally just inches from Erica, killing one candidate and his wife. Of course, the whole country is on alert as it seems the young man who planted the bomb has disappeared. But as Erica covers that story, it is the remaining Democratic candidate, a former prisoner of war, and his wife who set off an uneasiness in Sparks. Her covert investigation into Mike Ortiz, his wealthy wife Celeste, and their seemingly perfect marriage leads Erica into the darkest plot imaginable.
I like thrillers and this book certainly qualifies as one. The book kept my interest enough that I read it in one sitting, but the whole time I was reading, I was slightly put off. Perhaps it was because this book was written so close to this election cycle and it included the names of real people in government and the news industry. Definitely, Celeste Ortiz's obsession with Lily Liu is creepy and dark. As the book moved into its final scenes and the truth becomes more apparent, I felt the book had a few flaws. Why would such a formidable plot to take over our country leave a lowly prison guard alive in Iraq? They had no problem snuffing out all likely trails in the US, so why did this one person live? In my estimation, this was too convenient of a way to give Erica the truth. From there until the end, the story just fell apart for me, especially this next point. Spoiler Warning --- Why, when a plan to wipe out Erica's memory is revealed, does it not begin? Of course, it is that lag in starting that evil action which gives Erica an escape.
A day after finishing the book, I am still not sure what my final reaction is.