The Zero Game
Brad Meltzer
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The Zero Game

Brad Meltzer
Warner Vision
496 pages
February 2005
rated 4 1/2 of 5 possible stars

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After ten years in Washington as senior staffer for a congressman, Matthew Mercer has lost his idealistic fervor. He is tired of political maneuvering which he feels is repetitive and ineffective at best and wants to call it quits. To divert him from his pessimistic thoughts, his best friend Harris Sandler, another senior staffer, lets him into the secret of the Zero Game. The Game, which supposedly had its start as innocent random betting among the staff to relieve the daily tedium, has metamorphosed into a well-organized, tightly run gambling program into which only a select few are secretively inducted.

Soon Matthew is enjoying himself, playing this clandestine Game. But the day comes when a bet is made which leaves Matthew very uncomfortable. When he tries to investigate, something terrible happens to him. Now itís left to Harris to cope with this sudden and chilling news, even as someone determinedly sets out to erase all evidence of the Game and its participants. Soon Harris is on the run, taking with him an innocent seventeen-year-old Senate page who has the misfortune to get involved in the whole risky affair. But the stakes are vastly higher than Harris could even begin to imagine. Will they discover the truth in time? And if or when they do, will anyone believe them?

Washington, D.C,, with its politics, favors, wheelings and dealings is the center of this latest exciting Meltzer book. The pace is at first slow and meandering as Meltzer sets out to familiarize the readers with the behind-the-scenes working of the Capitol, the Senate, and politicians so essential to the plot of this thriller. Once sufficient information is provided, the author starts with the Game. From then on the pace and plot development are so rapid as to leave the readers breathless as action, suspense and mystery jostle each other for supremacy. Characters are many, but only the few who have an impact on the story are deeply developed. Particularly, Harrisí reading of body language to gauge and predict peopleís behavior is outright fascinating. Also interesting are the detailed scientific facts which enter the story late but still have a tremendous impact on it. The Game itself is made so real that the ending comes as a shocking revelation. From start to finish, Brad Meltzer gives his readers an insiderís look at politics - a world where nothing is real, duality is a must, favors and bargains are common, influence and votes are synonymous, power is the ultimate prize - all of which comes across authentically through this gripping story.

© 2003 by Rashmi Srinivas for Curled Up With a Good Book.

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