The Right by Steve Sohmer

This is a very tasty stew of a book. It’s a great page turner. I enjoy American political thrillers, so I am its target market, along with anyone who enjoyed Primary Colours and The West Wing.

The Right deals with a couple of the big subjects which exercise Americans: the death penalty and abortion. The author has created a scenario which entwines the two, bringing ‘Thou shalt not kill’ to centre stage, examining the prejudices and principles which underpin the entrenched positions from which the players seeking after truth and/or justice ricochet. As if this dichotomy weren’t enough plot to keep one going there are interesting subplots, which all tie together satisfyingly at the end. Every so often an additional twist, or aperçu, is thrown into the mix. When I got to the end I felt I had learned much about American politics, society and certain Stateside cultures from an expert witness.

I don’t usually like my characters physically described, but Mr Sohmer has a great way with thumbnail sketches. Eg (of a ‘heavy’) “he had a neck like a fire hydrant and fists like dumb bells” (I may have paraphrased). Each new character is introduced with a pithy sentence and, as there are many characters, it does help one keep them clear in one’s head.

This hurtling story is told from various points of view, in short scenes. At the end of each is a moment where the reader can draw breath and, if need be, put out the bedside light: thoughtful. The point of view is omniscient, enabling caustic asides to be used liberally. This also lends itself to an informal style and vocabulary, and to witty one-liners, such as US literature and TV favour. They add savour to an already exciting read. A breakfast meeting of primetime preachers was particularly well served with these (they are the televangelists’ stock in trade, after all).

If this book had received a professional edit I would have given this 5 stars without hesitation. As it is it richly merits 4. I only hope someone picks it up (as happened with The Martian and Imhotep) and propels it into the big leagues.


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