This review contains mild spoilers that will not affect enjoyment of the story.
Book Name: Hidden Order
Author: Brad Thor
Series: 12th in an ongoing series
Publisher(s): Atria/Emily Bestler Books, Pocket Books
Format(s): Hardcover/Mass market Paperback/Audiobook/eBook
Genre(s): Thriller/political thriller/mystery
Release Date: July 9, 2013
I hate it when people who review books actually are reviewing the author (or more correctly, the author’s politics) instead of the book. I say that because you’re going to have to pardon me while I kind of do that same thing for just a couple sentences. Brad Thor and I do agree politically on a couple of things, but on the vast majority of stuff he far more conservative than I am. I knew this heading into Hidden Order, just as I have known this going into all of his previous works. It’s also a fact that’s generally true of most of the current crop of political thriller writers. I’m OK with that, provided the author writes a good book that doesn’t require absolute belief in his/her politics to enjoy. Thor pushes that envelope to the max in Hidden Order but in the end writes a reasonably good story.
In Hidden Order Thor takes on the Federal Reserve System in the guise of protagonist Scot Harvath investigating the disappearances of all the members of the shortlist to be named the new Fed chairman. What follows is a Dan Brown-esque story where Harvath is really taken out of his “action first” element and forced to turn investigator. Thor throws in the stereotypical hot sidekick in Boston police detective Lara Cordero for Harvath to play off of, with fairly predictable results. And yet, it works.
Don’t worry, there’s still plenty of action and Thor writes those passages as well as anyone. But unlike all of the other Harvath books instead of driving the story Thor has his main hero more along for the ride as other characters set the scene of the “hidden order” that the Fed is and the history behind the banking system in the United States. I kept expecting Robert Langdon to make an appearance as Thor winds his story through historical sites in Boston that the antagonist (who I shall not name in this review) uses as props. Although unlike Dan Brown nothing in Boston has been adapted for the story by Thor. All landmarks/locations are used exactly as they currently are or historically were in Hidden Order. That’s a huge plus in my book.
It being a Brad Thor book, we also have the almost required CIA black operations thrown in to help lead the reader down the wrong path a time or two. That’s one of two things I didn’t really like about Hidden Order. The side plot didn’t tie in well with the story and almost seemed forced into the story. I know Thor can, and has previously, done better there. It’s as if he felt compelled to add that in to keep his longtime fans happy. I think Thor could have added the required story information a different way that would have fit better.
The second thing I didn’t like, and it’s a total failure on Thor’s part: Harvath never asks who had access to the shortlist. You’d think a person investigating the disappearance of all the people on a single list would want to know who has seen that list. It certainly would narrow the list of suspects. But even if you go along with the idea that Harvath is not a seasoned investigator so that’s something he might not think of (and based on the previous eleven books, I’d debate that) you then have seasoned police detective Cordero not asking about it.
All in all, there’s enough in Hidden Order to make it a decent book. But Thor could have, and to be blunt should have, done much better. Thor either needs to learn some lessons about writing mysteries or stick to the thriller genre. Either would be fine by me.
More: Simon and Scuster have released a free prologue on their site. Not owning an e-reader I’ll have to read it on my phone, but in any case it’s not included in this review. There is also a free epilogue, which can be found right here on Scribd which also is not included in this review.