cover image  Chain of Command

Chain of Command

Peter Schweizer, Casper W. Weinberger, . . Atria, $25.95 (368pp) ISBN 978-0-7434-3773-8

Two term Reagan Secretary of Defense Weinberger collaborating with Schweizer (The Next War ) turns in a debut political thriller crackling with a chilling authenticity and riveting dirty dealing. When Secret Service Special Agent Michael Delaney, a longtime member of the presidential security detail, awakes blearily one morning at Camp David, he discovers that someone's swapped guns with him—and within minutes, the president and vice president are shot with Delaney's own Beretta. Before the wounded VP is taken to surgery, he's sworn in as president; moments later, multiple cities get hit in small but lethal coordinated attacks. The new POTUS, who sees opportunity in disaster, declares a state of national emergency, putting the entire nation under martial law, then prepares to take out a right-wing militia on whom he has pinned the attacks. Before a highly skeptical Delaney can catch his breath, he finds himself accused of being complicit in hitting the president and VP. The novel tracks, over nine days, the particulars of the White House power grab and Delaney's desperate attempts to derail it, both in the District and in some tense encounters with the Appalachia-based right-wingers. Despite some stilted dialogue, Weiberger and Schweizer have delivered a superbly paced, tightly plotted winner. (June)