cover image The Middleman

The Middleman

Olen Steinhauer. Minotaur, $26.95 (368p) ISBN 978-1-250-03617-9

This smart polemical thriller from bestseller Steinhauer (All the Old Knives) starts off strong, but loses its way. On June 18, 2017, hundreds of people around the U.S. get a call, then discard their phones, credit cards, IDs—and disappear. They are members of the Massive Brigade, a cult organized by social justice revolutionary Martin Bishop. He believes American politics has failed, and repairing it requires radical change, which appears to come about when simultaneous political assassinations are carried out at July 4 celebrations around the country. Steinhauer has captured a very contemporary, very American angst—“people are going to have to pull a trigger, just to be heard”—but the book’s muddled second half will leave many readers frustrated because the polarities aren’t that clear. Rachel Proulx, an earnest FBI agent, is obviously one of the good guys, but the ostensible bad guys are less well-delineated—and the denouement is unsatisfying. Steinhauer fans will hope for a return to form next time. 150,000-copy first printing. Agent: Stephanie Cabot, Gernert Co. (Aug.)