Hidden Agenda

Thom Racina, Author
Thom Racina, Author Dutton Books $24.95 (358p) ISBN 978-0-525-94031-9
Reviewed on: 12/29/1997
Release date: 01/01/1998
Fleshed out by appealing stars and a (more) punchy script, this novel by the author of Snow Angel could be a heck of a movie. In the year 2000, ex-CNN staffer Jonelle Patterson is being groomed for stardom by fledgling Network ONE, and she keeps ending up in the right place at the right time--a little too often, in fact. During one interview, Imelda Marcos gets shot by a would-be assassin. During another, an Olympic diver slips on the board. Each time, Jonelle comes to the rescue on-camera, but after she foils an attempt on Hillary Clinton's life, she and her husband, Steven, go underground: they know by now that her big stories were cooked up by four TV execs and ""Christian"" rightists planning to run Jonelle for president (the Cronkite factor: ""America trusts this girl"") in 2008. And the bad guys know that they know. The plot is nothing but ludicrous, especially since we never understand how the evil eminences grise get their dirty work done, and exposition trumps characterization (at the heavy-breathing height of foreplay, Steven says: ""You're getting the cover of Newsweek, I hear""). Still, the novel's throwaway gags (""the Gingrich-Degeneres wedding""), old-fashioned name-dropping and colorful, fiendish set-up do provide good entertainment. (Jan.)