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Reviewed by Jamie Michele for Readers' Favorite
The Puppet King by TM Kornelsen is an international thriller that plants its feet in a 'cause and effect' scenario over decades. As Western philosophy gained traction and the Soviet Empire disintegrated in 1989, the fall of the Berlin Wall was met with mixed feelings, and Erich Strauss lost his position as general secretary of the Socialist United Party in East Germany. Cloistered in his Jena, Germany castle, Strauss plans a comeback with loyalists, bolstered by a mysterious figure offering assistance. While probing Germany's financial crisis, investigative journalist Gwen Patterson uncovers a network of conspirators and misappropriated assets connected to New York City and Washington, DC. As Gwen investigates, her mother's Cold War past resurfaces, intertwining her personal life with universal stakes, forcing Gwen to contend with a faltering global economy as she struggles with her allegiances.
I have always found that a plot where the antagonist plays the long game is the most believable, and TM Kornelsen is able to kick this element up further by showing, after such a stretch of time, what a person is willing to give another in order to make that long game finally pay off. The Puppet King is a fast-paced suspense novel with a smart, resourceful, and highly capable female lead that Kornelsen molds perfectly in the character of Gwen. The transitions of settings and the prose that links them realistically provide a true sense of place and time. "Germany settled down for dinner, but it was still early in New York and business was booming...” Of course, none of this would matter if the execution of a coup wasn't within the realms of possibility, something that Kornelsen effectively shakes up with an economy destabilized to the point where its population experiences such suffering that the revival of a monarchy feeds the social and political psychology. It's eerily reminiscent of an idea like making things great again and when the seizing of power by one at the cost of all is the only thing that matters. Very highly recommended.