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Reviewed by Asher Syed for Readers' Favorite
State of Redemption by Richard McKeown is a political thriller that revolves around the main character Matt Matheny, who returns home to Milford, Vermont following two back-to-back losses. Milford is also the domicile of a wealthy family with a long judicial legacy; its patriarch T. Bentley Branscum and his son Tommy, who is running for the office no Branscum has ever held: Governor. Decades prior as a child, Matt witnessed the murder of teenager Caroline Dawson, an unsolved and closed cold case that Matt buried internally out of a combination of fear and youthful ignorance. On his return, Matt learns what actually happened, and as the layers are peeled back, he transitions from an initial interested bewilderment into a nightmare worse than what he occasionally had experienced in following the crime. Unfortunately, once that train leaves the station there is no slamming on the brakes, quite literally as it turns out, and the might of the Branscums against the Matts and Mariannes of the world comes to a violent head.
“These people don't make many mistakes... You can take that to the bank, or you'll be taking it to your grave.” I wasn't sure what to expect going into State of Redemption because even though I am a huge fan of political crime fiction, I generally tend to stick with authors I know will deliver the goods—I had never heard of Richard McKeown. The storyline sounded intriguing and I can now state with authority: Richard McKeown delivers the goods. The character development of even the ancillary characters is incredible. Father Mitch is so hard to approach as a reader because, oh my gosh, if only you knew. But he's uncomfortably impossible to keep at arm's length because of what he knows, even when we know about him. Bentley is equally intriguing and, while cut-throat, there's a believability to what a father will do to protect his family, and also a family legacy that his son outright acknowledges to be a burden. It's interesting that in this novel my least favorite characters were Matt and Marianne; not because they are poorly constructed, they just struck me as shades of beige over the red of others. The plot and pacing are pitch-perfect and the writing is great. I like going in knowing 'whodunnit' and still being surprised at the arc, and I'm certain other readers will feel the same. Very highly recommended.