Book Review: Season of Lies
Thursday, August 10, 2017 at 10:31PM
Windy City Reviews

Season of Lies. Dennis Hetzel. West Virginia: Headline Books, Inc., May 1, 2017, Trade Paperback and E-Book, 348 pages.

Reviewed by Marssie Mencotti.

This was my first sports/political thriller and all I can say is, “Holy cow!” Hetzel rolls out a sequence of events hung on a taut timeline and within twenty pages it is a book you cannot abandon on a nightstand.

Two important seasons are about to collide: the World Series and the American Presidential election. The novel takes place just as the Cubs have won the World Series and one year before the Presidential election. Both games are rematches and rest on how they are being pitched. Both teeter on the edge of being games of lies and deceit played by complicated and misguided villains and countered by people of generally good character.

Author Dennis Hetzel goes right to the top with high-powered characters including the incumbent President, Luke Murphy, who is running for re-election, and a talented, highly-paid baseball pitcher, Trey Von Ohmann, who has just been traded to the President’s favorite team, the Chicago Cubs. The book begins vibrating almost immediately as a large comet streaks across the sky, and a world poised on making decisions based on unfounded superstition is looking for answers in unlikely places. 

I would categorize Season of Lies as a realistic thriller. Hetzel packs the book with archetypes that we quickly register and recognize but gives their characters enough latitude to make decisions that seem more spontaneous than plotted. Everyone has at least a semi-legitimate reason for what they do. There are an assortment of supporting characters including political rivals, backroom consultants, on-air personalities, a major sports mogul, damaged old friends, a neglected wife, and a drug addled young woman whose diary entries stir up the past. All of them come with personal agendas that are sometimes in direct conflict with the two main events.

If there was ever a fiction book about shifting power and the puppet masters who do the shifting, this is it. Social media and established media is always watching and writing—not weeks or years later, but within minutes. There is no waiting for things to be discovered and proven. There is no place to hide. The fact finders and benders keep the pressure on everyone. We are drawn through this book as the stakes keep rising until we, and the characters, are nearly exhausted from being outraged by dealing with lies and half-truths.

I think this book will appeal to anyone who loves their reading fast and furious. I watch sports and politics enough to hold dinner table conversation, but this book put me right into the fictional Cubs organization and carrying my iPad through the halls of the White House. I learned about pitching and playing in a high-powered, multi-billion-dollar sport. I learned about how rumors and partial truths can be powerful weapons in chewing up time. This is good, clear, powerful writing with no extraneous fol-de-rol that shows that the writer knows what he knows. It is Hetzel’s walking the tight rope of plausibility that makes this novel believable and exciting.

I was prepared to dismiss some characters as one-dimensional archetypes, mainly Luke Murphy, the incumbent President, and Trey Van Ohmann, the baseball pitcher. To Hetzel’s credit, he gave them and every character enough of a backstory to keep them believable. He generally stops them from sliding into predictable situations, although there were a few times that he could not resist that temptation.

There are no true superheroes or totally misguided villains in this book. We know the stakes are high, and we know that America has embraced a philosophy leaning dangerously toward the ends justifying the means without any ethical balance, thereby creating cravers of power who are dangerously without scruples. Hetzel shows us that lies are the real terrorists that hold all of us in the tumultuous netherworld of both real and imagined fear.

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