This is a transportation book, the kind you read on a long airplane trip or your daily commute to work. A successful transportation book must take into account that the reader will rarely give the text undivided attention and that it will be read in pieces. To compensate the author has to make the chapters and paragraphs short, key facts must be repeated, the characters’ names must be repeated, first and last names, at the beginning of every chapter and the characters themselves must be, well, broadly sketched. Most importantly the plot must speed along so that the reader doesn’t have time to notice any of the previous issues nor time to notice the general silliness of the proceedings. Phillip Margolin’s Executive Privilege manages all of the above.
I’m not a major consumer of transportation books but I have read enough to recognize the requirements and to know that some are pretty awful. Executive Privilege is not awful. It chugs along the rails of the genre’s convention making the necessary stops. Because it’s a legal thriller we get snatches of legal jargon and technicalities. We also have the usual allotment of serial killers and evil politicians. I got the impression that Margolin’s heart wasn’t into it when it came to the serial killers – that was in his favor in my opinion. He kept the victimization of women to a minimum except when it came to the background of one of the leads, another mark in his favor. The plot itself – is the President of the United States a serial killer? – won’t keep you up nights but it’s not intended to. The big twist isn’t all that surprising (I clocked it by chapter 5) and the ending is textbook pat. (All the major players declare their love to the person they’ve been keeping at a distance.)
Margolin does slip in a few unexpected touches. The conservative politician isn’t the villain for a change. The male lead, a young lawyer, is a complete doofus instead of a heroic genius with abs of steel. He was whiney and lovesick; it made for a nice change. It also made it a tad easier to put up with the antics of female lead Dana Cutler who is such a talent PI that she never once enters a room normally. She sneaks up on EVERYONE. I kept hoping we’d see her sneaking into a McDonald’s to get a Big Mac in the epilogue just to show us she hadn’t lost her street skills or whatever.
Take it for what it is and this book is enjoyable enough. It’s not a beach read – taken in large doses you’d probably want to bury it under a sand castle. Read it for 20 minutes at a time on the train and you be at risk for missing your stop by the miles will speed by.