Cover Image: One In The Chamber

One In The Chamber

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I am utterly mystified by this book. It’s so unremittingly ugly in every way, in nearly every character. The main characters are six Congressional interns, three of whom are near ciphers, while the other three are users who hurt other people for whatever reasons suit them. The Senators whom these interns serve are all appalling. Horribly, over-the-top abusive, racist, misogynist, corrupt, senile.

The story is dialogue-heavy, with the dialogue doing a lot of exposition in stilted language. The plot include elements that borrow heavily from Clarence Thomas’s Senate confirmation hearings with the explosive Anita Hill accusations, set in an environment that, without using any real names, seems to imagine a future in which someone sort of like Ron DeSantis is running for president against a VP who is at least superficially like Kamala Harris. The Senatorial maneuvering and clashing against this backdrop would be considered too out there for a season of <i>Scandal</i>.

At one point, I got sidetracked by a scene in which a young-ish, drunken frat-boy type of reporter talks to a couple of the interns at a bar. The reporter is named Luke Russell, and it sure seems like he’s supposed to be Luke Russert. I wonder what that’s all about.

A real oddity is that one of our lead characters is introduced as Cameron Leann, but we find out later that in his college yearbook he is listed as Cam E. Lian. Seriously? As in chameleon? This is just amateurish and bizarre.

I thought this was a lurid, unpleasant mess of a book.

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The current news headlines vividly illustrate American politics' intense and dysfunctional state. While political contention, tit-for-tat exchanges, and a self-serving approach have always been characteristic of the political landscape, the emergence of Donald Trump elevated these dynamics to an unparalleled level. Author Robin Peguero is intimately familiar with this environment. He recently played a pivotal role as an investigative counsel on the historic Select Committee Investigating the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol. Observing the hearings unfold, the entire spectacle seemed almost surreal, undoubtedly providing Peguero with ample inspiration for his latest novel, One in the Chamber. Having had the opportunity to review his debut novel, With Prejudice, a compelling exploration into the dynamics of a jury during a murder trial, I was eager to delve into his newest work.

The novel begins with gripping intensity. On the eve of the presidential election, the nation is on edge. Supporters from both political divides believe a loss could signify a dramatic shift in the country's direction. On Capitol Hill, influential congressmen and their large teams of interns anxiously monitor the election results. By night's end, two undeniable truths will emerge: a new president-elect will be chosen, and a well-known U.S. Senator will be found dead, the victim of a shocking murder.

Peguero rewinds the narrative from its explosive opening, taking us back several months before the fateful election night. Here, we meet Cameron Leann, a modest young man from Iowa who lands an internship position at the Capitol despite lacking significant funds or political experience. He soon finds himself amidst the grandeur of the Capitol building, about to serve as an intern for one of the Senate's influential "Gang of Six."

In this elite circle, Cameron is introduced to a tight-knit group of fellow junior staffers, each assigned to a different member of the Gang of Six. These twenty-somethings, diverse and representative of the nation's population, are remarkably intelligent. Diverse, though they may be, they all share a singular sentiment. Each of them harbors a deep disdain for their respective bosses. As the political landscape heats up, with debates surrounding a controversial Supreme Court nomination and the looming election, tensions within the group intensify. Alliances are tested, deceit becomes commonplace, and emotions are boiling. While readers are privy to the story's eventual tragic outcome, the journey to that pivotal night is equally tumultuous and riveting.

In One in the Chamber, Robin Peguero masterfully refines the character-driven storytelling and intricate plotting that distinguished his debut novel. The book seamlessly blends personal dramas, political maneuverings, and a gripping murder mystery into an irresistibly engaging narrative. Peguero offers readers a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the American political system, navigating its complexities without drowning the reader in tedious details. He strikes a perfect balance, providing enough insight into the legislative process to lend authenticity to his tale while skillfully grounding the more salacious elements of the plot.

Each chapter concludes with a tantalizing glimpse into the future, presenting snippets of the characters' interrogations following the shocking murder. This narrative device heightens the suspense, propelling readers to eagerly turn the pages. One in the Chamber evokes the suspenseful political intrigue of the show "House of Cards" while channeling the dramatic twists and turns reminiscent of "How To Get Away With Murder." The story culminates in a satisfyingly unpredictable finale that had me glued to the pages until the very end. Once again, Robin Peguero delivers a standout novel that captivates and thrills.

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I'm going to be honest I went into this book with wildly wrong expectations. I was making up all kinds of predictions off the strength of the first chapter, that were just not what this story is going to do. I don't think every reader will make the same leap that I did, but I had fully convinced myself that bodies were going to be hitting the floor left right and center.

That's not at all what happened.

Instead we do follow a group of Staffers who aren't all that happy with their day job. We know that at some point in the future a person is going to be murdered and that this group of staffers is connected to that plot in some way. I wouldn't say that it's similar to The Secret History, because I hated that book [ my review here ], but it wouldn't be a stretch.

For the most part I enjoyed the ride. I read the bulk of this book on my way home from the movie theatre, and I was just glued in to all of the twists that last part of the book went on. It's not necessarily a slow moving story, but it is deliberate. Something that it did take a minute for me to fully appreciate.

I didn't expect for a large chunk of this book to be about the confirmation of a Supreme Court Justice. That could be because I didn't read the synopsis, I loved Peguero's debut, With Prejudice, so much I knew I should pick this up. But it does. It's also an examination of said potential Justice's sexual assault allegation. Like his debut, sexual violence and it's impact on character is a recurring theme in this work, so if discussions of that aren't for you then this might not be the book for you.

In the third act I definitely thought we had gone off the rails, but I just needed to trust Peguero a little more because in the end it was all planned, we hadn't actually gone off the rail I had just gotten ahead of myself. So yeah, I was fully invested in how this one went and would definitely recommend it to most readers.

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Thank you Netgalley & Grand Central Publishing for an eARC ♥️

"One in the Chamber" is a thrilling and disturbing book about Washington D.C. politics. Cam, a newcomer, gets caught up in a web of lies and manipulation.

The book shows how politics is a dirty game where people fake friendships and loyalty doesn't matter. Corruption, hypocrisy, and entitlement run wild.

As Cam navigates this dangerous world, the reader is taken on a wild ride with unexpected twists. The ending is shocking and makes you question the whole political system.

"One in the Chamber" is a warning about how politics can go wrong. It makes you think about how to fix a broken system that rewards the ruthless and hurts the vulnerable.

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This was an interesting concept for a mystery novel. I could see the satire elements and thought it worked with the story being told. there were a lot of characters to keep track of but I think it worked. Overall, it wasn't bad for the story and characters. I enjoyed the way Robin Peguero wrote this and how they created the characters for the story. It worked well with the genre and I would love to read more.

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One in the Chamber is a novel replete with many topics — an intern and staff aides to US senators, the first black to be appointed to the Supreme Court, sex, murder and a presidential election. Unfortunately, there are too many characters and none of them is particularly interesting. It would be very difficult for me to recommend this book. However, I thank NetGalley and Hachette Book Group for the opportunity to read and review this book prior to p.

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