Real Washington politics are conducted behind-the-scenes, movers and shakers accomplishing their goals through less-than-obvious means. Such is the case for Joe De Marco, “fixer” extraordinaire for House Speaker John Mahoney, De Marco’s basement office out of sight but central to his boss’s machinations nonetheless.
Routinely, Mahoney assigns tasks to De Marco, nudging particular constituents back in line, apportioning funds for deals - the kind of work best done in the shadows of government. But when Mahoney sends De Marco to Bremerton, WA, to check out the complaint of the Secretary of the Navy’s nephew, Dave Whitfield, what appears to be a mere nuisance turns ugly, drawing De Marco and his ex-DIA friend Emma into a web of lies and deceit that threatens the security of the nation.
Emma and De Marco discover that a potential matter of government fraud is far more complex, as evidenced by the death of Mr. Whitfield, not to mention the other bodies that suddenly litter the landscape, leaving Emma and De Marco with only one lead: Phil Carmody, an ex-Navy SEAL, the titular leader of the swindle-turned-espionage. The chase leads from the U.S. to Canada, a number of agencies tripping over themselves in an effort to be kept in the loop (FBI, CIA, DHS and the Canadian Mounties), at the same time placing Emma and De Marco in grave danger.
At the heart of the nefarious plot is Li Mei, a spy from Emma’s former life in the field, a woman turned bitter and vengeful, willing to do anything to regain her former status with her government, even at the cost of Emma’s life. In fact, Li Mei would relish the opportunity to give back in kind what she has suffered through Emma’s interference.
The first level of defense is the physical - the armed forces, weaponry, defense materials, etc.; but this battle is fought in the second perimeter of defense, composed entirely of the human element. Although Emma and De Marco use the considerable resources available through her contacts and Mahoney’s clout, they are repeatedly thrust into life-threatening situations at the hands of Li Mei, Emma confronted by the wreckage of the past in the very real present.
In his novel, Lawson addresses the critical problem of a multi-agency approach to terrorism and the flaws of tunnel-vision, most efforts focused on the Middle East while other factions continue to pursue their own dangerous agendas: “Governments could always rationalize what they did in the name of national security… realized in an endless accumulation of individual tragedies.” It is the human tragedies that continue to undermine the reputation of this country, the damage irrevocable.
Provocative and fast-paced, Lawson’s The Second Perimeter is an accomplished thriller, an excellent topical adventure with non-stop action and a thinking man’s plot.