Inside Ring by Mike Lawson

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I read a lot.  

That being said one of the consequences is I get stagnant with what I have on the horizon for future reads.  From time to time I’m lucky enough to find a new author.  I consider myself extremely lucky if I happen to discover a writer with more than one book in print.

            Such is the case with Mike Lawson.  Lawson writes thrillers set in DC.  While he has clearly spent some time in our nation’s capital, he wasn’t a politician, rather he’s a nuclear engineer who’s made a very successful transition to writing.  Things get more interesting when you add to the equation that Lawson lives in the Pacific Northwest, about as far away as one can get from DC and still be in the lower 48.  However, this doesn’t stop Lawson from crafting some quality fiction.

            Lawson grabs, and keeps, the reader’s attention from the start in The Inside Ring. In the first few pages we have the attempted assassination on the President of the United States. 

            While on a holiday in the Georgia mountains with a life long friend, an assassination attempt is made on the life of the President.  Quickly the FBI starts an investigation and in short order finds a local resident has committed suicide.  A search of his home turns up a trove of evidence, including the weapon used in the shooting, and thankfully the matter is brought to a speedy conclusion.

            However our main character, Joe DeMarco, is soon summoned to the Office of the Speaker of the House of Representatives.  DeMarco is a non-practicing, recently divorced attorney.  It turns out his family history (one that Lawson explores) kept him from the more traditional legal practice areas.  However, a few favors later (again Lawson does a great job with the background on this aspect of the story) DeMarco ends up working for the Speaker of the House.  He’s not your traditional house staffer rather he’s a fixer.  He even has an impressively vague title, “Counsel Pro Tem for Laison Affairs.”   DeMarco’s normal cup of tea is getting the Speaker the support where and when he needs it to move his agenda through the maze of our Nation’s democracy.

            However, it turns out the Speaker has concerns the assassination attempt may not have been so cut and dry as the FBI believes.  He has DeMarco look into the entire affair starting with a disturbing message received by the Secretary of Homeland Security.  The note gives the concern that the President’s inner circle of Secret Service agents, his “Inside Ring,” has been compromised.

            One may wonder how and why a non-practicing attorney who works primarily as a fixer for a politician would have the skills to investigate an attempt on the life of the President, particularly when conspiracy at the highest levels of government may be involved.  The answer, and it’s the same answer Lawson sets out, is that DeMarco doesn’t have the background for this and, more importantly, he knows it.            It turns out DeMarco may not be a lot of things, but he is resourceful and knows when to call in help which is a good thing.  He’ll need it as he finds himself deeper and deeper in a web of intrigue that becomes infinitely more complicated with every step DeMarco takes.

            One of the most refreshing things Lawson does is keep every aspect of the story genuine.  The dialogue is crisp, the characters are interesting and Lawson succeeds in imparting a degree of humanity to everyone you meet in the book.  This is not to say that every person in the Inside Ring is a saint – quite the contrary, but the characters behave in a believable fashion. 

            At the center of all of this is a very enjoyable plot.  I was a bit worried that I was going to be reading a book where our everyman hero, a hero of limited ability, is called upon to save the world.  Fortunately that’s not the case here.  Lawson starts out and keeps you guessing at every turn.  Despite the surprises and the unforeseen twists and turns, Lawson doesn’t have to revert to a suspension of disbelief to reach the book’s climax – and what the surprise ending it is.

            I’ve already started the second book in the DeMarco series and will post a review about it when I’ve finished.  Given the speed with which I read the Inside Ring, I imagine that I’ll have this up soon.  I try to keep in tune with quality new writers, but I’m clearly a late comer to the game when it comes to Lawson.  Do yourself a favor if you haven’t read his work yet.  Go grab Inside Ring and you’ll likely be hooked.

            Fans of thrillers with a swift plot and engaging characters will enjoy his book.  Fair warning however, you will not want to put it down once you start. 


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