The North Building
All the elements of an entertaining historical thriller are present in Flanders's novel, as war-weary foreign correspondent Dennis Collins returns from Korea in 1951 to an increasingly paranoid America. Back in New York, where Collins finds his newspaper closed, an old friend advises him to tone down criticism of Gen. Douglas MacArthur's strategy in Korea to avoid getting swept up in the Red Scare. Unfortunately, Collins's experiences are more often told than shown. Flanders sets scenes like a popular historian rather than a novelist, using dialogue to move plot in a manner that's often leaden and obvious. It takes the author a long time to reach the book's central conflict—Collins is caught up in Cold War espionage and intrigue—and the novel gets bogged down in a slow romantic subplot. A long-delayed confrontation and its aftermath demonstrate how all the right elements for a taut thriller can unravel without tight plotting.