Sometimes, politics can be murder. State Rep. Anthony Parker fought his way out of one of the worst public housing neighborhoods on the East Coast to become a corporate lawyer and successful politician. He has a plan to revise property tax regulations to save the state's cities and small rural communities but it's going to be a fight. Meanwhile, an undercover detective gets murdered on a street corner and one of Parker's best friends may be involved. Journalists Mickey Lingham, Tim Bellows and Anna Primacerio find themselves dragged into that investigation as they cover Parker and his proposal during the annual state Legislative session. Lots of plot twists and intriguing characters written by a veteran journalist who knows his way around state capitols and murder scenes.
The Session is a political thriller that ranks among the more sophisticated ones I’ve read—no small boast when you consider how overpopulated this genre is. And I’m not referring just to the number of plot twists. Maybe I feel that way because this particular one feels more robust and full-bodied, like a great wine. While the political battles and in-fighting are entirely absorbing, this is also a story of social consciousness to make a bleeding heart liberal like myself smile. Even if it is populated with no shortage of characters from the other end of the spectrum.
A lot of the excitement in this novel from early on hinges around how the inquiries by three separate journalists into one political figure, Parker, dovetail into one another. As they uncover bits and pieces of the puzzle, there is a growing sense that their investigation is going to blow up in Parker’s face. Which would be a shame, as his mission to improve a rundown inner city neighborhood, to give kids a chance at a better life, is a noteworthy and laudable one. So what if his lifelong friend from the wrong side of the tracks just killed someone, and he’s inclined to look the other way? How often do you see a bent politician trying to do something socially redeeming? Should he let one criminal offense derail everything he’s working so hard to accomplish? You may not be able to forgive his indiscretions, but you can empathize with his tough choices easily enough.
Parker has to dodge more than crafty journalists smelling blood in the water like the sharks they are. He’s surrounded by no end of political opposition—powerful people from a judge to a senator to… These mavericks have equally haughty agendas that conflict with his. Parker’s own crafty politics and plans to get around them aside, the journalists looking to tear his life apart and derail his plans are no less sly, and the growing number of high level state officials against him no more the easy pushovers.
Seeing Parker combat the demons from his past, and political opposition at his level from state officials, and determined-to-get-at-the-truth-past-the-wall-of-lies investigative journalists also helped to mature my understanding of how the world works at this level. Sometimes, especially in today’s world, it’s hard to look past the oversimplification of “all politicians are corrupt. Nothing good can come from any of them.” The oversimplification sadly might contain a lot of truth, but it blinds us to the complex inner workings that go on in Washington and amongst state leaders anywhere. The Session offers a chance to see exactly how messy and frustrating the world can be, even when it’s populated with good, responsible leaders, determined to do right by their constituencies. (Not that everyone fills that bill in this book, any more than they do in the real world.)
Against all this, you can’t help but root for Parker with his larger than life goals facing larger than life opposition, even if he’s not exactly your idea of a hero.
I want to get back to my earlier point of how the novel is a chance to experience politics from up close, to mature our understanding of how the world really works. How often do we catch glimpses of politicians in the media that actually tell us anything about the real drama going on behind the scenes? That drama, played out in spades in the pages of The Session, comes to life through riveting dialogue between crafty debaters determined to open minds already sealed like steel traps. To succeed requires running a calculus in their heads complex enough to make Newton’s brain hurt; the expert politicians on display here must know from hundreds of key figures who is vulnerable on what issues, who can be leveraged, what a person’s passions are as much as his weaknesses. He must also know how to play the respective parties off one another. He must have just as brilliant backup plans for when the initial ones fail, because everyone is essentially playing the same game. The only way for the winner to ultimately take all is to out-manipulate, out-mastermind the greatest strategic thinkers of them all, who gravitate to politics like Galileo’s falling bodies thrown from the tower to the ground below.
I could try and describe these complex webs the various vested individuals weave in the abstract from here to Sunday, but to really appreciate the genius involved, to get inside the minds of these players, you need to read The Session. If I could think of another book that did it better, I’d tell you. If I could think of one that did it half as good, I’d tell you. I’d consider it a social obligation. Because this is a fundamental point of literacy in today’s world; no one should graduate high school without this sophisticated an understanding of how the world really works, and so, how one might become a real player. The fact that this learning is packaged in the form of compelling drama just makes it fun as opposed to pedantic.
I might mention, as an aside, that it was just as much fun to see the correlations in The Session (as in the real world) between how gangsters do things and how bigtime politicians and behind-the-scenes influencers in Washington do things; no surprise there. But again, even when you think you’re familiar with the concepts, they can really come alive for you with such expert execution in the storytelling.
This is an inciteful, intelligent thriller full of just about everything I want in a book. The political intrigue isn't too complex to lose you, something I have seen too often in this genre, but importantly the characterisation is superb and each new element that is introduced, adds to the story, where in lesser hands it would have only muddied the waters. Cracking dialogue, dark secrets and a clear understanding of the subject matter means that Mike Billington has yet again surpassed my expectations. A firm favourite on my reading list, he never disappoints. This is a crime thriller that will grab you and keep you absolutely absorbed right to the very end. Definitely one to add to your collection, pick it up.
This is a book that deserves your undivided attention. It did take me while to get into it, but once I did I found it engrossing. This is a political thriller with helpings of corruption, back handed deals and investigative journalists trying to uncover the truth. A winning combination that is pacey and entertaining. I found Parker to be a really well written character. He has so many facets to his personality that I found myself liking him, then disliking him, and back again. His complexities ensured he came across well. Not a loveable good guy, nor an evil bad guy, but there's an intriguing mix of feeling created towards him.
Recommended to those who enjoy a good political thriller that makes you feel as though you're investigating along with the journalists involved.
The various agendas of those in power and seeking more is the vehicle which carries this excellent tale of wheeling and dealing, or as you and I might recognise it—corruption. A lot of good can be brought about by the right person in power, but taxpayer’s money can be syphoned for personal gain, and old, dark secrets can be covered. One of the problems with a secret is, that if more than one person knows the information—it isn’t a secret. Introduce the politics of a deprived neighbourhood, and you find local armed gang members who settle arguments and distrust with something more terminal than a strong argument. Tough-talking and brave journalism is the only way to deal with the politics of either the high and mighty or the low and powerful. Reporting the distinctly different factions is done with a detailed and first-hand understanding of the press. Good journalists are also diplomats. Mike Billington is an author with an in-depth knowledge of all aspects of this story and it shows in this superb tale. It doesn’t matter if the guy with the gun is wearing a suit, or a leather jacket and jeans—if he shoots you, you’re just as dead.
BEHIND THE SCENES I guess no one should be surprised at the wheeling and dealing that goes on behind the scenes in government but this book strips it bare – it could almost be a text book in how to succeed in politics. Quite a complex plot with a lot of characters. There were many terms which I think Americans would understand, but I was not familiar with. But a good story.
I was lucky enough to buy this book on sale, and I feel like I cheated the author. I have been reading this book for two days, and literally fell asleep with it last night then continued this morning! This is one of the best stories I have read in a really long time-- and I read often. I love crime thrillers, but rarely do we see plots and sub-plot woven together with such an impact! Imagine HBO's show "The Wire" meets "The West Wing" and then throw in Woodward & Bernstein! This could EASILY continue as a series if the author picked up on either the reporter or the detective's cases and followed the politicians along their dealings.
I admit, I tried reading this a couple times since I bought it, and could not get into it at first. This is the kind of story that you need no distractions from... so lock your kids out of the room... send your spouse to dinner with a friend... call a babysitter if you have to.. but do not let ANYTHING distract you from this story. I was really sad to see it end.
My criticisms: There are typos and it needs an editor/proofreader. The format needs some work, and even the cover does not do this story justice. I truly believe this author could be our next James Patterson with some help from others. I would be perfectly wiling to format it for free.. and even offer a cover design (not that I'm great, but we can work on it)--- for FREE... for one reason and one reason only--- This story is THAT good! Anyone who would allow a few imperfections to keep them from enjoying this book, simply does not deserve the entertainment it provides.
Thank you, Mr. Billington. Please contact me on Facebook or Twitter at Rhoda D'Ettore -- for I would love to speak with you!
Author Mike Billington’s tale of political intrigue and murder, ‘The Session’, is a must-read novel for anyone who enjoys the wheeler-dealer antics of present-day politics spiced with a good murder or two. The tale follows the events related to the presentation and review of a project that will drastically affect how public taxes are allocated in the state and the people that are involved with its journey through the legislator. All of these individuals have an agenda, often at odds with those they partner with to make the deals required for the project to proceed. If that were the entire story, we would have an excellent political thriller on our hands in this novel. However, Billington builds upon this foundation with a couple of interesting parallel stories that drive the novel to its explosive climax. One concerns the background of the project’s promoter, a successful lawyer today but someone with roots deeply entrenched in the most violent part of the city; a past that rears up and complicates much of the tale as gang warfare breaks out and the bodies start to pile up. Add to that the story of two veteran crusading reporters teaming up with a younger colleague and a Police Detective to investigate the connections that run through the tale, as well as the murders that occur throughout, and you have a complete novel with plenty of human interest, superbly rounded characters, and protagonists you can root for. A superb read for crime and political thriller fans; the sort of novel you could easily see as an excellent miniseries on TV.