Written in a very readable style that might best be described as Dashell Hammett meets Fletcher Knebel, Hellfire Club has all the mystery and intrigue of a DaVinci code, in which politics is the religion. Author Jake Tapper (Chief Washington correspondent for CNN) does an excellent job of capturing the times in which his story is set. It is 1954. Everyone has a drink in his or her hand, and is lighting up a smoke (even pregnant women). America is transitioning to a post-war economy as those who stormed the beaches on D-Day are now readjusting to civillian life. African-Americans, even those in Congress, feel unsafe a few miles from the capitol in the Maryland countryside. The Red Scare has real communists running for cover and those with benevolent ideologies being accused of a threat to bring down the government. Fear of communist spies leads to shrinking civil liberties and freedom of expression becomes a casualty. Even comic books aren't safe. And then there are the secret clubs. Tapper is a master of setting the mood of this unique time in American history and of making the reader feel as if he or she is living in the day.
Although Tapper reminds the reader several times that this is a work of fiction, history geeks will love his interspersing of many forgotten historical events such as the 1954 Capitol shooting incident by Puerto Rican Nationalists and the ghosts that haunt the capitol. (Don't just read the book, read the source notes too, they're fascinating.) Real-life contemporary political figures find their way into this book, including Senators Estes Kefauver, Jack Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Joe McCarthy, as well as Bobby Kennedy, Roy Cohn, Richard Nixon and even President Eisenhower.
Tapper combines cerebral political history with a rough and tumble thriller story-line. He blends the two worlds superbly, and produces a work that will thrill mystery lovers, political history geeks, and most importantly political history geeks who love a good mystery. Add this to your summer reading list and look for it in theatres. I smell a movie!