Ray Flynt’s “Kisses Of An Enemy,” a thriller set in Washington, D.C., is about scandal and duplicity in which practically none of the characters have any virtue or morals. In short, it’s an entirely believable story, and a very good one at that.
Dave O’Brien is an ambitious, driven aide to Noah Sebring, a Pennsylvania congressman with an opportunity to take over the chairmanship of the House Appropriations Committee after the death of the current chairman in a plane crash. As soon as Dave begins to manipulate the wheels of power to get his boss the position, a kidnapper sends Dave an anonymous e-mail, telling him that he’s abducted Betsy Beasley, one of Representative Sebring’s interns. The kidnapper threatens to kill her unless Dave keeps Sebring from getting the Appropriations committee chairmanship. Dave suddenly has to figure out how to get Betsy released without appearing to undermine his boss or telling anyone that Betsy has been kidnapped – even her father, the wealthy Pittsburgh power broker Frank Beasley, who’s a long-time Sebring backer. Unsatisfied with Dave’s assurances that his daughter is fine, Frank Beasley sends a Pittsburgh freelance reporter, Nick DaPrato, to Washington to investigate. DaPrato is eager to restore his reputation after getting fired from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for fabricating a source in a story exposing local corruption, all the while maintaining that his source was legitimate. DaPrato’s nosiness while in D.C. complicates things even further.
Ray Flynt does an excellent job of keeping things moving along in a storyline that has more twists and turns than the Pacific Coast Highway. He’s very good at suspense. With so many characters involved and so many subplots deriving from and intertwining with Dave’s clandestine dealings with the kidnapper – which could destroy his career if he were to be found hiding a crime from the authorities – you finish a chapter wanting to know what happens next, only to find the story picking up another subplot where it was left off. And the surprises keep coming. I’ll reveal this much about the end: Betsey survives her kidnapping. But that does not spoil the ending by any means, because it ends with several twists you never see coming.
“Kisses Of An Enemy” may be one of those great stories that you can’t put down at night, but there are no heroes who know what they have to do, and Dave, for one, is too afraid to fight anyone. In fact, Flynt populates his book with a cast of misanthropic manipulators, the kind of people you would quit your job to avoid working with. One congressional aide, Deb Stahl, is ready to quit her own job for the sole purpose of advancing her career with another congressman. Only one character emerges as a true hero – but even this character has to deal with fundamental personal flaws to rise to the occasion. And it’s not Dave. Dave is one of the most unlikable anti-heroes I’ve ever encountered in fiction. Divorced and alone, he spends his days plotting to embarrass Sebring’s rivals and spends his nights trolling chat rooms for sexual thrills. And, he curses a lot. It’s scary to imagine that a young woman’s life rests in his hands.
Unless you want to read something uplifting about the world’s greatest representative government, this is easily a must-read.
Occasional copy errors crop up in Flynt’s book. C-SPAN is referred to at one point as “C-Span,” a congresswoman named Marilyn Reynolds has her name turned into a possessive pronoun with the apostrophe in the wrong place (“Marilyn Reynold’s”), the Capitol is referred to as the “Capital” in one instance, and there’s the occasional missing period or comma. But these errors do not distract from the story.
Reviewed by Steven Maginnis
Freelance writer. Blogger of current events and popular culture. Reviewer for IndieReader.com since 2009. www.stevenmaginnis.blogspot.com