"Point of Entry"
(Reviewed by Debbie Lee Wesselmann MAR 22, 2006)
In Peter Schechter's debut political thriller Point of Entry, the near-future looks a lot like the present. Conservative U.S. president John Stockton is a defender of the status quo, worried about the Middle East but not terribly interested in foreign policy itself. The White House is decidedly non-intellectual because of the president's style, although those who surround him are sharp and savvy. Here, Iraq is but a footnote to the crisis; instead, Syria poses the threat and is on the verge of being invaded by the United States to halt its support of terrorists. Enter the new president of Columbia, Marta Pradilla, the ex-beauty queen turned politician. When at her inauguration attended by heads of state from all over the world, Pradilla diverts the unwitting U.S. president Stockman to meet Fidel Castro, the stage is set for this whirlwind thriller that takes the reader into the backrooms and basements of subterfuge as well as to the lofty offices of national power.
After a surprisingly slow start for a thriller, Schechter revs up the suspense and the stakes as the novel hurtles toward its unpredictable conclusion. The characters are surprisingly fleshed out for the thriller genre, even if Pradilla is described as "beautiful" far too often. Stockman is a simple man thrown into an exceptional office, and he clings to what he understands. His National Security advisor Nelson Cummins is both an idealist and a pragmatist, depending on the situation. Their counterparts in Columbia are much shrewder. Marta Pradilla knows that her daring style is her country's only hope to shed its reputation as a state run by drug lords, but she also knows "that there would be times in which the exercise of power would force her into difficult decisions. Decisions that hurt. Indecent decisions. She knew when she swore an oath to the constitution that leading a country of Columbia's size, with its problems and its complications, would eventually bring her to unforgiving packs with the devil. Her best friend and closest advisor Manual Saldivar is as loyal to Pradilla as one can be, until she forces him to choose between her and his principles.
Schechter's acknowledgement of the complexity of politics and the difficult, not always right, decisions leaders must make lends a realism to the novel. He weaves many seemingly disparate situations in the world - the drug trade, terrorism, the collapse of the former Soviet Union, economic sanctions, the perception of the United States abroad, the ineffectiveness of the embargo on Cuba, the mutual wariness between extreme Muslims and extreme Christians - into a seamless story that ties everything together. The ending may be idealistic, but getting there has all the realism of missteps, misunderstandings, and the necessary shiftiness of politics.
While the author makes liberal use of dramatic irony (the reader knows more than the individual participants), he deftly hides the ultimate resolution until it unfolds its twist. That Schechter was able to remain both transparent and yet still deliver his final punch suggests that this novel will be followed by many others. This reviewer, for one, is looking forward to see what he will deliver in the future.
- Amazon readers rating: from 9 reviews
Read a chapter excerpt from Point of Entry at HarperCollins.com
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Bibliography: (with links to Amazon.com)
- Point of Entry (January 2006)
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- Official website for Peter Schecter
- St. Louis Dispatch review of Point of Entry
- JewishSightseeing review of Point of Entry
- Newsweek review of Point of Entry
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About the Author:
Peter Schechter is an international political and communications consultant. He is a founder of one of Washington, D.C.'s premier strategic communications consulting firms. Mr. Schechter has been the senior consultant for numerous presidential campaigns around the world; advised the United Nations Foundation, the World Bank, and the World Health Organization on key strategic communications; and assisted countries including Colombia, Ecuador, Spain, Peru, and Portugal in business and tourism promotion programs.
Schecter has lived in Europe and Latin America and is fully fluent in six languages. He now lives in Washington, D.C.