Whiskey Tango Foxtrot
by David Shafer
Little, Brown and Company, 2014. 425 pgs. Fiction
"Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get you" could easily be the theme of this witty, multilayered thriller about a consortium of business tycoons and media moguls who decide they should control everyone's information--all of everyone's information. The Committee doesn't take kindly to a couple of essentially guileless characters who stumble upon their plotting. Leila Majnoun is an NGO worker in Burma/Myanmar who has been battling a feckless bureaucracy for long months trying to distribute monies to potential nursing students. Leo Crane is a recently-fired pre-school aide (one too many times playing "Rolling Death," a game involving an office chair and shrieking children). Leila and her driver accidentally see more than they should have as they are trolling the countryside for nursing candidates; subsequently, the CIA tries to ruin her father, a school principal, by planting porn on his computer. Leo has a bit of a cuckoo blog where he posts angry conspiracy theories that may actually turn out to be true. These two are recruited by another shadowy group, "Dear Diary," an organization devoted to taking down The Committee. Leila and Leo must enlist Mark Deveraux to help because he has the ear and the confidence of one of the kingpins of the committee. Too bad Mark, formerly an extraordinary essayist and thinker, has become a pablum-spewing self-help guru, druggie, and drunk. I can't say much else about this wildly entertaining novel without spoiling the ending, but I will say that it works brilliantly on several different levels: as a thriller, as a spokesbook for the modern age, and as a great story about the willingness and ability of regular guys to do good things to help other. Some bad language and vulgarity.