Book Review: The President's Dossier by James A. Scott
This international spy thriller is clearly very heavily based on the Steele Dossier (here renamed the Ironside Dossier) and honestly it’s one of those books where it very quickly becomes hard to tell fact from fiction. Some names are changed (Steele, Trump) and others aren’t (Putin). The basic premise goes; an undercover operative is hired to verify the contents of the dossier and promised a large payday of $10 million if he can do it.
The question I’d be asking at the beginning is; who wants it verified and what do they plan to do with the intel? But neither of those things seem to worry Max Geller, despite his literally being fired from the CIA after expressing anti-presidential sentiments. It seems obvious to me that those with the most to lose would be the ones most interested in making sure any verifying evidence was buried six feet under, and that’s exactly what quickly starts to happen, as a trail of bodies of witnesses begins to appear in Max’s wake.
Honestly, I’d have been out the minute my ‘contact number’ went silent and a random woman showed up as my minder instead. But Max inexplicably decides to carry on regardless. Luckily, he knows lots of competent people who are extremely good at what they do (I’d have loved to read more about Sherri and Tony D, actually) and manages with their help to not only do what he was contracted for, but turn around and figure out who is asking and why.
The disappointment here is that fiction mirrors real life and that the horrifying and incredibly compromising material in the dossier made absolutely no difference whatsoever. Which is… the administration in a nutshell, frankly. And difficult to come to terms with in a book of this genre. At the end of a spy thriller, you want to feel that the Good Guys won, that the world was saved. At the end of this one, I felt like Geller got to pocket some money and wander off into the sunset, and the corrupt just kept right on with their shady business. The losers were the innocent witnesses who were erased along the way.
This is quite well written; the author obviously has plenty of inside knowledge of the world of spycraft, and the shading of truth and fiction is so deftly done that you’d need to be a spy yourself to figure out where the lines were drawn. It’s just depressing, especially in the ending, and I found myself wishing there was an epilogue where something Geller had done actually made a difference, in the fictional world if not the real one. I’ll give it four stars.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy of this title via NetGalley and Oceanview Publishing.