The Washington Decree

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Dec 2019

Member Reviews

I really enjoy Jussi Adler-Olsen's Department Q mysteries. This was very different from that series, and wasn't bad, but I would prefer to stick with Department Q.
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Stevie‘s review of The Washington Decree by Jussi Adler-Olsen translated by Steve Schein
Political Thriller published by Dutton 07 Aug 18

I continue to have a fascination with books originally published in other languages, although in some cases the delay between original publication and eventual English translation means the story is no longer quite contemporary. Once in a while, the passage of time makes the central issues more, rather than less, relevant to the times we are currently living. Jussi Adler-Olsen’s The Washington Decree is a perfect example of that. Published in Denmark ten years ago, it tells of what happens when a US President is allowed to take total control of the judicial process, in order – he claims – to improve the lives of all his citizens.

Democrat politician Bruce Jansen wins the Presidential election, but tragedy strikes during the celebrations when his pregnant wife is shot and killed by an employee of the party’s host. With the killer also shot dead, suspicions are raised that he was working, if not on the instructions, at least under the influence of his boss, a man who had outspokenly opposed Jansen before offering to host his party as a concession to his estranged daughter Dorothy ‘Doggie’ Rogers, a long-term member of Jansen’s team.

Doggie first came to Jansen’s attention as one of three quiz winners picked to accompany the then Governor of Virginia on a trip to China, a visit on which Jansen’s first wife was killed in a random act of violence. Following the trip, Doggie has kept in touch with her two fellow contestants, as well as others now working for the President or in high-flying journalistic careers. All of them are shocked by the arrest of Doggie’s father, but that’s nothing to their feelings of horror and disbelief as the President puts in motion a series of decrees ostensibly aimed at reducing crime and creating full employment, but actually seriously restricting the freedom of law-abiding people and increasing the rate at which murderers are executed by the state.

As politicians and ordinary people oppose the President’s proposals, more and more restrictions are placed on the press. Coincidentally, the greatest political opponents and their families become victims of apparently unconnected violent sexual crimes and terrorist attacks. Doggie and her friends, separately and in coordinated investigations, discover links between the various crimes and wonder if someone is masterminding events in order to push the US to the brink of civil war. As they get close to the truth, their lives are placed in danger; and with Doggie’s father’s execution growing ever closer, the friends are forced to go into hiding in order to save as many lives as possible.

I enjoyed this book a lot. At times it felt that the author had absorbed a lot of knowledge about US culture and norms without picking up on all the nuances. For instance, the racial make-up of the cast and background characters seems to be vast majority white, minority black, and with no other ethnicities showing up until one small walk-on by two Latinos towards the very end of the story. There were a few loose ends too, but overall this felt far too real for comfort, particularly in the later chapters.

Grade: B
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This is the first book I’ve read by Jussi Adler-Olsen. The premise sounded interesting, especially given the political climate that has developed in our country over the last eighteen months. Power-hungry politicians, citizen militias, and a president determined to impose strict laws and regulations.  It would seem to be a great beginning to a page-turning novel.  But, it was a disappointment.

The story fell flat.  Some parts seemed repetitive, some parts seemed somewhat unnecessary and some parts were just boring.  The story dragged and the characters reflected time and again on their lives, the regrets they had, and the actions and decisions that led to their predicaments.  With lots of backstories, the reader will get to know many of the main characters quite well, even though they aren’t likable or sympathetic.

And, if the story itself was disappointing, the ending was simply over the top and quite unbelievable.  I forced myself to finish this book but only because I had already invested time in it and I truly hoped it would turn a corner.  

Many thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for providing a copy of this book for review
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A Frightening Political Novel

When she was fourteen, Doggie Rogers won a trip to China sponsored by then Senate candidate, Bruce Jansen. She loved the exotic trip and the other contest winners, T. Perkins, a small-town sheriff, and Rosalie Lee, a single mother. On the trip she also meets John Bugatti, a news reporter, and Wesley Barefoot, son of Jansen’s secretary. The trip is wonderful until Jansen’s wife is killed by a crazed assassin.

Years later, Jansen is running for president. Doggie and Wesley are members of the campaign team. When Jansen wins, they’re thrilled. It even means a chance for Doggie to reconcile with her father, who offers one of his five star hotels for the election night bash. It all turns sour when Jansen’s pregnant wife is shot in the hotel.

Jansen is devastated, but assumes power anyway. He’s focused on gun control, and if other rights have to be trampled so be it. His cabinet is fearful, but as more violence occurs, they reluctantly support the program. 

The premise of this political thriller is good. It reveals how easy it can be to turn a country into a police state. However, it’s not particularly realistic. I thought the opening was well done. I liked the characters, but the pace slowed and the scenes were repetitive when Jansen began his purge. I think it would have been a better book if it were shorter and with fewer important characters. 

If you enjoy political thrillers, this one has an interesting plot, but I can’t recommend it very highly. 

I received this book from Dutton for this review.
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I was attracted by the premise of The Washington Decree and have not read any of  the author's other works.  It was an uneven read for me.  The story started out quickly, introduced a lot of characters and multiple situations rapidly.  The overall plot seemed heavy, almost too wordy, which may have been due to the translation.  It turned out to be a long read but an entertaining experience.  The main characters were well defined, however the secondary characters were a bit two dimensional.  The author brought up some absolutely terrifying possibilities for the United States, lots of debate and discussion opportunities for a book discussion selection.
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THE WASHINGTON DECREE is meant to be a political thriller in which a frightened democratic president’s second wife is assassinated, just like his first was, and he revokes all of the Bill of Rights in his desire to make life safe again. The implausibility factor is just sky-high in this tale which ruins the enjoyment for an American reader. (It appears that European readers really enjoy the book on Goodreads.). Just having a second successful assassination on a second wife really ruins the tale early on; especially because it is used as a precipitating event. The author prefaces the book with real issues that lend themselves to interesting ideas for fiction and science fiction/dystopias. Unfortunately, this book does not deliver for this American reader. We are living in times that outpace the story (the intro, and possibly the entire book, was written over a decade ago.) Strange but true.
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Honestly, I'm not sure exactly how I feel about this book. No question it's well written and attention-holding (though perhaps a hundred-or-so pages more than really needed). What amazes me most, I guess, is that it was originally published in 2006; that it so closely mirrors the worst that's going on - or what could yet go on if what's happening now is carried to extremes given the current U.S. administration - is positively eerie. Consider, for instance, this quote from the book's President Bruce Jansen:

"From now on we're letting the world take care of itself while we take care of each other here in God's own country. Reforming our way of thinking will pave the way."

It's impossible to believe the author could have known back then who would be the U.S. President in 2018, I have little doubt that the similarities are the impetus for the book's re-release now. It's also worth noting that the author takes aim at the potential for abuse of power - citing in his notes at the end of the book the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which he calls a "shadow government" that has "unlimited authority in all crisis situations." That unfettered power, coupled with corrupt government leaders, is an open invitation to disaster. 

But on to the story which, even if you aren't aware of what's going on in the United States right now, stands on its own quite well. Yes, it's a bit over the top when it comes to believability (especially given the time frame in which everything happens), but certainly not beyond the realm of possibility. The aforementioned Jansen, as the Democratic governor of Virginia, embarks on a trip to China with several of the other important characters in the book including "Doggie" Curtis, who won the trip and, as a Republican, somewhat reluctantly accepts. The two hit it off, and Jansen tells her to come to him if she ever needs help. Not long afterward, the unthinkable happens: Jansen's wife is murdered - sending him in an emotional tailspin.

Fast-forward to 2008, when Doggie is 30 years old and working on Jansen's presidential campaign. She and friend Wesley Barefoot, who was on the China trip as well, expect to get jobs in the White House - and they do. Jansen has remarried, and his wife is pregnant with their first child. And the unthinkable happens once again: During a victory celebration at a hotel complex owned by Doggie's father, the president-elect's second wife is murdered. Worse, Doggie's father, once an outspoken opponent of Jansen, is arrested for the murder and sentenced to death.

Emotionally shattered once again, the new President makes his acceptance speech, in which he surprisingly deviates from his prepared text to announce "great and radical" changes. His proposal, in fact, pretty much kills the U.S. Constitution; and it's pretty clear he's serious. To say that all hell breaks loose from this point on would be an understatement. The media is gagged, military folks roam the streets to maintain order and "fringe" groups threaten uprisings. Worse, the political leaders and staff in Jansen's administration who don't agree with what he's doing either claim to support him outright or refuse to voice their objections in fear of retaliation.

Doggie finds herself at odds with the "new" laws as well as not at all certain that her father really is guilty as charged. But can she prove it? A direct encounter with Jansen's vice president not only puts her at odds with the powers-that-be, but on the run and not knowing who to trust. It's a wild ride with many twists and and a very surprise ending (as an aside, I think this would make a very good motion picture).

My conclusion? If you read this book wholly as a work of fiction - or if you don't give a hoot about current politics or don't live in the United States - it's likely you'll find it a very intriguing story on its own. While I've always leaned toward the no-hoot position, what's going on today has me in such a dither that it was tough for me to not worry even more that my country is headed down a slippery slope similar to what happens here. Now, besides thanking the publisher for the opportunity to read an advance review copy, all I can do is try to put everything in these pages behind me and continue to hope that there is hope.
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Wow, you wouldn't think a guy from Denmark would be so knowledgeable about politics in the U.S.A., but he scored right on for me.  He put al the characters that were in a contest at the beginning of the book and made them into the people that you liked and they worked well with each other when they need some help.  Doggie Curtis's the youngest of the contestants at 14 years of age, Rosalie Lee won first prize and T. Perkins came in third.  They all traveled to China as all paid guests of Governor Bruce Jansen, but his wife was murdered there.  Ten or so years later Doggie is working for the Governor who is now running for President.  Doggies daddy was the owner of a group of hotels, so he invites the Governor to use one of his hotels as headquarters in the final days of his run.  His new wife was shot to death and his unborn child was killed and the Governor was elected President that night.  this was the start of the book and it goes on from there,  Horrible things happened during the rest of the book but you should know how Jussi Adler-Olsen works by now to figure out some of them.  You'll be surprised by the ending.
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I've enjoyed Jussi Adler-Olsen's quirky "Department Q" police procedurals for some time now. 

He delivers something very different, but sadly very timely in "The Washington Decree", which postulates a series of events that steadily and inexorably lead the United States into an autocracy, while good men and women stand by ...
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Nothing.  Nothing in this story was predictable.  Often I was on the edge of my seat.  It was that feeling of dread that I felt … almost  like watching a scary movie.  The crescendo of what-happens-next kept increasing with each page.  There was no such thing as predictably. 

The author creates President Jansen, a man seemingly gone mad, and Vice President Sunderland, also unhinged, mounting volatile chaos in America, along with radical policies that change, displace, and replace those akin to democracy.  Catastrophe follows catastrophe.  Panic follows panic.  It is disturbing, very disturbing.  

Impressive is the Danish author’s knowledge of the American political and governmental systems, although this book by no means takes a political side.  Also impressive is how he’s thought of ostensibly everything that could go wrong in this radical new government as the dominoes kept tumbling. 

Just as important to me in this book is the AFTERWORD—a must … no, mandatory read. It in detail describes FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) and it’s all reaching powers.  The American people are not informed as to the degree those powers reach.  Executive Orders that are at FEMA’s disposal make FEMA more powerful than Congress and even the President.  Frightening indeed. 

This gripping and powerful book is now one of my favorites.  It deserves more than five stars.  I’m so grateful to NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review this book.  It is genius, Mr. Adler-Olsen, pure genius.
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The Washington Decree is just too long. I get the idea; it's clever. But not interesting enough to sustain my interest for almost 600 pages. I read about half of the novel. So much of it is just filling out the idea and not adding to it. The book brings characters to the fore and then just drops them for long periods. Accomplishing what the novel says is accomplished would be pretty darn hard.
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A truly scary read that the author proves to be plausible according to current US legislation. Whether you think that Obama was the worst president in the history of the US or that Trump is the world’s biggest nightmare, this book will help you feel better by showing you that it could be much, much worse. Bruce Jansen, the president in this novel, implements policies that make both sides of the aisle sweat (gun confiscation + massive deportation of illegal immigrants), throwing the country into chaos. But Jansen is only one of the characters, as the story is told from the perspective of regular people who somehow get involved with his campaign and presidency based on winning a TV contest back when he was a lowly Senator.  Parts of the plot are very suspenseful, especially at the end, but the rhythm was a little slow compared to the author’s other novels (and not just the Department Q ones, but also the excellent Alphabet Street). Some of the characters are very well rounded and compelling, but others are more of stereotypes (the villain only needs a mustache to twirl). Honestly, I may not have completely enjoyed this book because I took offense at a foreigner disparaging the US, even if it’s clear that the criticism comes from a place of respect for the nation. Readers from other countries will not have that problem, and it’s very obvious that the author knows what he is talking about. In any case, the fact that something like this could happen is horrifying.
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Jussi Adler-Olsen, author of The Washington Decree--a stand alone book, has written seven books in the Department Q series 'starring' lead detective Carl Morck (in Danish, that o has a line through it!).  I reviewed one of them last Fall.  They are definitely Danish Noir, gripping and full of social commentary.  Often they are laugh out-loud funny which makes them real page turners in spite of the sometimes shocking murders.  If you haven't read them, I highly encourage you to read them in order but read them!!

The Washington Decree is Adler-Olsen's latest social commentary and he takes on the United States and it's government.  In fact, it is an American horror story.  Although the way things are going in the US, it sometimes felt too close for comfort.

In the Epilogue, he explains some of his motives for writing the book.  FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) was created during the Nixon administration primarily to deal with the effects of a nuclear war but also meant to be useful in the event of any natural catastrophe.  When I lost my home in the Oakland Firestorm of 1991, FEMA was the government agency that came in and created different organisations to help us survivors out.  Included were three months of support groups for those that wished to attend. At three months, we were told the money had run out and we were on our own.

According to Adler-Olsen, FEMA  has a huge amount of funds, enough to build underground facilities, internment camps, train personnel to take over duties of elected officials and, it seems, an entire non-elected governing system could be established with a shadow cabinet and a shadow president.

The Washing Decree is Adler-Olsen's attempt to describe the quick journey from Democracy to Autocrocy should such an event happen.  In this book, the event was the murder of the incoming President's wife.  If it weren't for the fact that he describes in detail all that FEMA can do and the Executive Orders at FEMA's disposal, this book would seem fantastical, thrilling and a wonderful read but fantastical.

The book opens with a trip to China that brings five very different people together and then-Senator Bruce Jansen. After the murder of Jansen's wife, the book jumps sixteen years and Jansen is the Democratic contender for President.  All five of the people on the China trip have stayed close and stayed loyal to Jansen. One of them, Doggie Rogers, arranges for Jansen's victory party to be celebrated at her father's upscale hotel.  Jansen is re-married to a beautiful and very pregnant wife who has charmed the American public.  During the  party, Jansen's second wife is murdered.  Doggie's father is arrested and awaits sentencing.  Shortly thereafter, President Jansen goes on TV and issues a Law and Order Decree that becomes known as the Washington Decree. It takes away civilian rights and installs a police state.  From there, life in America descends into chaos.  The vice-president resigns in protest and the chief-of-staff becomes VP. Militia groups start hoarding guns and ammunition. People in Jansen's cabinet are being murdered.  With each new event, another executive order is declared.  America shuts down, no one knows who is friend and who is foe.

This is a thriller with a very bad guy.  There is also a love story.  One at a time, the five friends from China start getting suspicious and wonder if Doggie's father is really guilty and if not him, who?  It is a huge jig-saw puzzle to put together and each one of them starts fearing for his or her life.

I found the book slow going in the beginning.  But this is Jussi Adler-Olsen!  I was very willing to hang in there. And after the scenes were set, the pace picked up and things moved rapidly as I turned the pages.  And always in the back of mind was the question "Could this really happen with a bad guy in charge?" It is all the more upsetting now that we have an unstable man in charge of the country. 

I have looked up several websites to learn when Adler-Olsen began writing this book or if there was a particular purpose or statement he wanted to make.  I couldn't find anything.   Having read all his Department Q series and one other stand alone, it is no stretch of the imagination to write that Adler-Olsen has a lot to say about the state of affairs in the world today.  I find him an acute observer, an elegant writer and possessed of an amazing ability to make up stories that go right to the heart of what is happening in the world today.  I am already looking forward to his next book.
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This may be a preview of how the rest of the world views the likelihood of another American revolution. In the popular Scandinavian thriller genre, Adler-Olsen has enjoyed wide success, but this over the top tale of treason and betrayal in a country riven by political chicanery instigated by a charlatan who's managed to get himself to the second highest office in the country is barely worth finishing.
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I almost didn't read this book; so many "digital dummies" are writing these thinly veiled "current" novels and I was afraid this was much of the same.

YOU WILL LIKE THIS, if you read it as a novel based on the facts of this strange thing called EXECUTIVE orders, the same orders that allowed the last American wonder leader to assassinate (by drone) an AMERICAN citizen

Our country is only going to get scarier, this book gives you a possible peek into our future.
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I am unable to give this book any stars due to the fact I was unable to finish reading it.

I really tried to read this book. I really did. I was unable to complete more then 39% of the book. I consider myself to be a vote by the person not the party here in the USA. I did not vote for Trump. I was not happy with the idea of Hillary Clinton either to be honest, but I did vote for her because I felt she was the better choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

I also feel the need to put in here that I suffer from chronic depression & severe anxiety. These two things combine makes my life, along with my other medical illnesses, very difficult and sometimes what I watch and read can effect me subconsciously even though I know that what I am watching and reading is fiction. It does not help that my step-mother is a devote Democrat and vehemently hates Donal Trump.  I try my best to keep politics off this blog so I will finish this paragraph by saying just because she is does not mean I take everything I read & watch on her shows (that she watches) as the honest truth. I do my own research and come up with my own opinions. 

The reason I could not finish this book is the fact that too much of it is sounding like what Donald Trump is trying to do and it bothers me too much to read it. I tried to read it for over two weeks and I just kept finding other things to do, i.e. knit, watch movies, tv shows, etc. rather then read this book. Then when I did manage to pick up the book to read, I would have nightmare and night terrors over what was happening in the book. So I gave up trying to read this book. For what I have read of it the characters and the story line are wonderful and it is no fault of the author that I was unable to read the book. 

Once things settle down in the USA and the government gets back into shape where I do not feel like it is spinning out of control I might try to read this book again. Until then I am considering it done and this is the review it is getting. If I ever do manage to read it, which there are plot lines I want answers too, I will re-review it in a different post.

Again I am sorry I was unable to finish reading this book and have to give a review like this. Again it is no fault of the author or the book. I am just unable to handle how close to the truth it makes me feel to the current government we have here in the USA.
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It would have been much more pleasant to read this when it was originally published in Denmark in 2006, so I could have tut-tut-ed over how ridiculous the plot was.  Now, it’s all too realistic, depressing and frightening, and reminds one of how possible it is that things could even get worse in the United States.

The book begins in 1992 when Bruce Jansen, the Governor of Virginia, suggested a new geography quiz show he would help fund.  The winners would get to accompany him, his staff, and an official Chinese delegation on a trip to China.  Those on the trip included single mother Rosalie Lee, who won first prize; a small-town sheriff, T. Perkins, who came in second; and in third place, 14-year-old Dorothy “Doggie” Rogers.  Others on the trip included Jansen’s wife Caroll, his right hand man Thomas Sunderland, NBC journalist John Bugatti, Jansen's secretary, and her son, Wesley Barefoot.  Disaster struck however, when an assassin killed Caroll Jansen.

Bugatti, trying to comfort Doggie, told her:

“Listen, Doggie, what happened will bind us all closer together.  Because of what we’ve experienced today, we belong together from now on.  All of us: you and me and T. Perkins and Rosalie Lee and Wesley.  Do you understand?”

The story then advances sixteen years, to 2008, and indeed, the little group has all stayed together in a way, or at least stayed in touch with one another.  Doggie and Wesley worked for Jansen on his successful presidential campaign.  Thomas Sunderland acted as Jansen’s campaign manager.  Then improbably, tragedy struck yet again.  The night of the presidential victory, while celebrating at a hotel owned by Doggie’s father,  Jansen’s beautiful and very pregnant second wife Mimi was shot and killed.  Doggie’s father was arrested and put on death row.

Other horrific acts of gun violence around the nation convinced the new president that radical action was needed.  When the story picks up in 2009, Jansen, in “The Washington Decree” has declared a “state of emergency,” emasculating Congress, curtailing the press and the legal system, and establishing “a new form of law and order in American society.” 

As Wesley, now the president’s press secretary saw it, their changes restricting citizens’ freedoms constituted “a frontal attack on practically the entire Bill of Rights.”  Surveillance at all levels was instituted.  Opposition was muted as violent attacks continued, with members of the very top levels of the government as victims.  Some of those attacks were committed by the paramilitary organizations that were springing up with renewed energy across the country, but others were apparently the acts of lone domestic terrorists and snipers.  No one was safe, whether children or the elderly.  Checkpoints and roadblocks were everywhere.  No one felt free to dissent, especially those inside the White House. 

T. Perkins didn’t understand the logic of what was happening, and thought:

“But what the hell difference did it make, whether they understood or not?  No one had any say in the matter as long as the president, the National Security Council, Homeland Security - and thereby also FEMA - agreed and had control over the generals so the National Guard and military could keep the country in a vise of emergency laws.”

And therein lay the crux of the problem for the country.

Doggie mused:  “…even though people were united in their horror at what was taking place in their beloved country, things were moving so fast that notions of solidarity quickly yielded to the primal instinct of self-preservation.”

As the story advances to a thrilling denouement, full of twists and turns, no one knows who to trust, who is safe, and who will survive.

Discussion:  One can’t help thinking of the horror of this story when one wakes up to tweets from President Trump, such as on May 4, 2018, reading: “Democrats and liberals in Congress want to disarm law-abiding Americans at the same time they are releasing dangerous criminal aliens and savage gang members onto our streets. Politicians who put criminal aliens before American Citizens should be voted out of office!”

One can only hope some people in power read this, and consider it a cautionary tale to guide their reactions.

Evaluation:  While some of the twists seemed apparent, that still didn’t diminish the exciting tension and readability of the story, especially when the pace picks up toward the end.
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I have read several of Jussi Adler-Olsen’s previous books. I very much like him as a writer and I thought  this book was no different. While this book was quite contrast to his previous novel I had read, I feel like this is the first book that really got me thinking.the plot was pretty out there, but I still couldn’t help being utterly engaged throughout. While there was no real “main” character in my mind that the reader was to root for, I couldn’t help but root for everyone as a whole to succeed. I really enjoyed this book an look forward to more books from Adler-Olsen in the future.

Thank you to Dutton and Jussi Adler-Olsen for providing me with an advanced reading copy.
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Adler-Olsen delivers once again with a twisty, challenging thriller peopled by richly described characters.  A joy to read.
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Loved this book. Didn’t want it to end.  Highly recommend.  

Love love love.  Incredible book.  Fabulous book club pick too
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