State of Terror, by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny

A cryptic warning decoded almost too late. A plot unveiled, only to reveal a deeper menace. Betrayal in the air—but who to blame? These elements, and more, combine to make the political thriller State of Terror, by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny, a roller-coaster ride of a read.

I was first introduced to Penny’s writing almost ten years ago when, at the urging of a friend, I read The Beautiful Mystery, the eighth book in Penny’s Gamache series. Thanks to her engaging style—suspense with a twist of humour, and a cast of characters one can root for—I was hooked.

When I learned that Penny teamed up with Hillary Clinton to write a political thriller, I was curious. Part of the appeal of Penny’s books is the network of characters—protagonist Armand Gamache, his loyal right-hand man Jean-Guy Beauvoir, Armand’s wife Reine Marie, and the quirky residents of the imaginary village of Three Pines, Quebec help make the novels what they are. The question remained—could Penny’s story-telling magic continue even without those core characters?

There was one way to find out. By reading State of Terror.

It didn’t take long to answer the question. Some of the key traits of Penny’s writing remained, in the sense of humour, the ability to build suspense, and the weaving of likeable characters. Added to these charms were Clinton’s insider knowledge of the White House and international politics. This lent an air of authenticity to the events. The combination made for a readable, suspenseful, and gripping novel that, like many of Penny’s other books, had me reading long past my intended bedtime on more than one occasion.

The protagonist of State of Terror is Ellen Adams, the new Secretary of State for the United States. As she soon realizes, newly-minted President Douglas Williams, a person with whom she’s had serious disagreements in the past, didn’t name her to that position out of kindness, but rather with the intention of humiliating her. But political games are pushed to the wayside when a series of bus bombings brings to light a terrorist threat. Like it or not, Adams and Williams are required to work together, reluctantly at first but with increasing mutual respect as events unfold.

Adams is assisted by her long-time friend Betsy Jameson and other companions. Racing against time, she must travel across the world to seek information and alliances. There are formidable adversaries to be countered, and the urgency ratchets up as events proceed.

But despite the intensity, Penny and Clinton find space to build in other themes also: families, and the way people can become estranged and then still find common ground. Good people placed in difficult situations. The dangers that arise when politicians are overly motivated by self-interest as opposed to the good of the country.

Though State of Terror revolves around a different cast of characters, and different settings than most of Penny’s other books, many of the core elements that make the Gamache series so appealing remain. The subtle humour. The basic decency of the main characters. The ability to build suspense. As an added bonus, fans of Penny’s other books will glimpse, if briefly, a familiar name or two.

Louise Penny is an international award-winning and bestselling author whose books have hit #1 on the New York Times, USA TODAY, and Globe and Mail (Toronto) lists. Her Chief Inspector Armand Gamache novels, published by Minotaur Books, an imprint of the St. Martin’s Publishing Group, has been translated into thirty-one languages. In 2017, she received the Order of Canada for her contributions to Canadian culture. Louise Penny lives in a village south of Montréal.

Hillary Rodham Clinton is the first woman in US history to become the presidential nominee of a major political party. She served as the 67th Secretary of State after nearly four decades in public service advocating on behalf of children and families as an attorney, First Lady, and US Senator. She is a wife, mother, grandmother, and author of seven previous books, all published by Simon & Schuster.

  • Publisher ‏ : ‎ Simon & Schuster/St. Martin’s Press; Canadian Export edition (Oct. 12 2021)
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • Paperback ‏ : ‎ 512 pages
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 198218759X
  • ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1982187590

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Lisa Timpf is a retired HR and communications professional who lives in Simcoe, Ontario. Her writing has appeared in New Myths, Star*Line, The Future Fire, Triangulation: Habitats, and other venues. Lisa’s speculative haibun collection, In Days to Come, is available from Hiraeth Publishing. You can find out more about Lisa’s writing at