Citizen Kill by Stephen Clark : A Review
Rating : 3.5/5
Date of Publishing : July 4th, 2017
It has been quite some time since I read any political thrillers. If my memory serves me right, I think the last book I read in this genre was during my college days. Yet, there is never a scarcity of political thrillers as this appears to be the favorite genre for TV shows and prime time movies – “The President is under attack and here comes the hero still recovering from a traumatic past. He neutralizes the threat and once again gets placed on the golden pedestal after redeeming himself from whatever errors of judgement which he had committed earlier”. Yet, after an abstinence lasting many years, I finally decided to read Citizen Kill by Stephen Clark just to see how the current political thrillers were. Through Citizen Kill, Stephen Clark has made an excellent debut into the literary scene touching upon the present state of affairs in the United States and its War on Terror.
The novel tells the story of Operation Prevent initiated under the First Woman President of America, Savannah Reed, after an Inauguration Day bombing kills her son. Operation Prevent neutralizes American citizens who are believed to be radicalizing Muslims into performing acts of terror. Justin Raines and his team of specialized operatives under the leadership of George Mayer is currently on administrative leave after a botched mission which leaves an operative dead. While recovering from this, Justin is approached by Eric Kindel to assassinate targets under Operation Prevent. When an increasingly disillusioned Raines is assigned with the task of assassinating Zahra al Sharif, a seemingly normal citizen, he starts to question the credibility of the program. Is Zahra a terrorist? Will Justin be able to thwart the system if Zahra is proven innocent? Read this exciting debut to know more!
This novel has its prime focus on what it means to be a person of Islamic faith who openly practices his or her religion in the United States of America and how they are perceived by others. Hence, the task of reviewing this book is slightly difficult as I am neither an American nor of Islamic faith, so fully comprehending the depth of the issues discussed here is difficult for me. Although I will be focusing on the plot, writing, characters and the overall effect of the novel, I would like to give credit to Stephen Clark for undertaking such a complex and sensitive issue as the premise and portraying it with fairness and tolerance. Also putting Zahra as the lead was a very bold move but he has managed to pull it off with exceptional grace. The character transformation of Zahra from a closet Muslim to that of an outspoken one and its consequences has been well portrayed. Although this was not the focus of the story, he has done great justice to the character and has made the readers understand the dilemma faced by the protagonist during her transformation to her true identity.
As mentioned earlier the setting of the novel revolves around contemporary political issues which has been integrated beautifully into the story. As a thriller, the plot has complexities and enough twists and turns to keep us on the edge albeit a few clichés. The character of Raines is a typical thriller hero who ultimately does justice to his conscience. All the minor characters have also been clearly fleshed out and given enough background so that they remain in our minds throughout the novel. The main highlight of the novel is the fast paced writing and the presentation style of Stephen Clark. Due to this there is not a minute of lag and the novel has indeed become a page turner. I only have one bone to pick in this novel and that is the President, Savannah Reed. The story portrays her more as a mother in need of closure than that of a woman in control of the strongest nation in the world. Although it is redeemed towards the end of the novel, I feel that the damage was already done. Making the President a symbol of resilience and authority rather than a maternal figure would have been more apt.
Overall, the book is a fast paced thriller that will provide the readers with plenty of action, drama, romance and suspense. It is a refreshing read that can be read in between heavy duty literary tomes.
About the Author:
Stephen Clark is a former award-winning journalist who served as a staff writer for the Los Angeles Times and as a politics editor for the Washington, D.C. bureau of FoxNews.com. As a reporter for the Utica Observer-Dispatch, he won a New York Newspaper Publishers Association Award of Distinguished Community Service for his investigation into the financial struggles of nonprofit services. He also won a Society of Professional Journalists Award for Investigative Reporting at the Stamford Advocate for his series exposing an elderly grifter’s charity organization. Stephen grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia and now lives in North Jersey with his wife and son. He has a bachelor’s degree in communications from Arcadia University and a master’s degree in journalism from Syracuse University.