A breathless and highly charged political thriller: the story of a senator who is offered the vice presidential slot by both parties’ presidential nominees and then gets ominous threats
It’s presidential primary season in Washington, DC, and both parties are on edge. At campaign rallies for all the candidates around the country, there are disturbing incidents of violence and protest and shocking acts of civil disobedience. Rena and Brooks are happy to sit it out.
Against this backdrop, Wendy Upton, the highly respected centrist senator, must make a choice: she’s been offered the VP slot by both parties’ leading candidates. When she receives an anonymous, unnerving threat that could destroy her promising career, she hires Peter Rena to investigate her past and figure out which side is threatening her and what they are threatening her with.
As Rena digs through the senator’s seemingly squeaky-clean past, he must walk the tightrope between two parties at war with each other and with themselves, an electorate that is as restive as it has ever been, and a political culture that is as much driven by money as it is by ideology.
In this diverting if didactic political novel from Rosenstiel (The Good Lie), Democratic presidential candidate David Traynor, a tech billionaire and "bad boy reformer," wants Wendy Upton, a Republican senator from Arizona, on his ticket as vice president; so does Republican Dick Bakke. But before Wendy can commit to either, she receives an anonymous threat: "If you accept the offer to run as vice president, there are people who know something about you." Enter investigators Peter Rena and Randi Brooks, partners in a firm that does opposition research (the "oppo" of the title) to dig up dirt before the other side does. Trying to figure out what the threat refers to, as well as its source, forms the bulk of the plot, though Rosenstiel's real mission seems to be presenting his take on the horrible state of contemporary politics. As the executive director of the American Press Institute, Rosenstiel has a real understanding of American political life, but the book reads more like a lengthy op-ed piece than a novel.