3 out of 4 stars
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The title of Ed Munson's book The Letter is not particularly titillating, but the description of the story caught my attention. With the number of conspiracy theory opinions growing over the past two years, the plot of this political novel is timely. The setting in Washington, DC, with a Supreme Court justice as the protagonists captured my interest. Justice Bailey Stewart has been chosen by an anonymous letter writer to receive highly classified information that could cause history to be rewritten and could possibly destroy any credibility in all branches of the government. What is the public's right to know? It is up to the Supreme Court to determine the answer to that question. This premise is mentioned more than once as the characters involved debate the question: "Has the government willingly withheld facts, truths or not, from the public for its own good, or is it an issue of national security?"
There are 320 pages divided into 72 short chapters, which makes the plot move quickly. Just when the narration starts to slow down, another letter appears, which creates an avalanche of activity. I especially enjoyed going behind the scenes of the judicial courts and realizing the enormity of how many staff workers it takes to keep the system running. Attempting to predict the ending kept me turning the pages. I was not ready to quit when the book ended.
I appreciated the list of characters the author placed at the beginning of the book. They are categorized into groups, which is necessary when trying to sort out the relationships. Often, a character would be introduced with only a first name and then referenced later by the last name, so I utilized the list frequently. There are 34 characters on the list, and none of them are insignificant.
While I am not an expert on the 2013 political situation, which is approximately when this story took place, there were some questionable security behaviors executed. At times, individuals would be paranoid about emails and bugged meeting places, and then later, they would be discussing secret information on the phone, making voice notes, or recording meetings. This inconsistency was one of my least favorite parts. There were also several unfinished threads that puzzled me even after I had finished the book.
There were enough grammatical errors to warrant deducting one star. The book would benefit from another round of editing. I rate this book 3 out of 4 stars and recommend it to individuals who enjoy political intrigue and conspiracy theories. There are allusions to cultural icons from the 50s such as Perry Mason, Nancy Drew, and Rod Sterling, but not knowing who these individuals are should not hinder the enjoyment of the book.
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