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Sunday, March 3, 2013

The K Street Affair by Mari Passananti

The K Street Affair by Mari Passananti
Published by Rutland Square Press ISBN 978-0985894603
Trade paperback, $15.99, 360 pages

If you are hooked (like I am) on the new FX TV series The Americans, about Russian spies embedded in the Unites States in the 1980s, then Mari Passananti's political/spy thriller novel The K Street Affair is the perfect companion piece.

The setting is today's Washington DC, where the book opens with a bang- literally. There have been underground explosions in several DC Metro stations, killing hundreds. A terrorist attack is suspected, and corporate lawyer Lena Mancuso is still shaken walking home after the attack when two FBI agents show up at her door.

They ask Lena to help them prove that her boss is covering up for some international clients- a Russian oil tycoon, a government lobbyist and a Saudi prince- whom they believe are behind the bombings. Lena is stunned by this revelation, but she reluctantly agrees to help by looking for information in the files of her law firm.

It is a decision she will come to regret as she is dragged deep into a byzantine plot, where her life and the lives of people she loves become endangered. She is kidnapped and ends up in Russia, where her life depends on trusting the right person. Does she trust the FBI agents who got her into this mess or Mikhail, the Russian mobster's right hand man who has kept her alive and tells her a different story?

The part of the story set in Russia is most interesting. Lena is dragged from place to place, from hotel to the mobster's casino to his mansion to the Russian criminal underground. She has to use her gut instincts and smarts to keep her self alive and to get the one piece of information she needs to put the puzzle together.

There is plenty of political intrigue, with the Vice-President of the United States involved in a plot to control a new oil pipeline for a company he used to head up, and the usual FBI/CIA infighting and intrigue, complete with double-and-triple agents. There are also a lot of nail-biting action scenes which ratchet up the tension. The car chase scene was particularly well done, and the nuns were a nice touch.

I did find myself lost a little bit at times, trying to follow the conspiracy. If you don't trust lawyers or your government, The K Street Affair will have you saying "See, I told you so".

Lena is a gutsy, smart main character, and I liked her even if I did not agree with some of the choices she made. Fans of John Grisham's The Firm will enjoy this book, as it has a similar tone. It's very cinematic as well, and would make a great movie. Maybe Jennifer Lawrence as Lena?

Mari Passananti's website is here.

You can win a copy of The K Street Affair- leave a comment below with your email address- (US addresses only please). A winner will be chosen on March 18th.

rating 4 of 5

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