In The People’s House, a modern-day mystery that showcases the all-too-real corruption of the current American political system, David Pepper spins an engrossing tale filled with betrayal, intrigue, and a heavy-handed dose of governmental conspiracy.
The hero of The People’s House is Jack Sharpe, a middle-aged reporter for the newspaper the Vindicator, who, when he is first introduced, is stuck in a rut. Growing up in a political family, Sharpe not only writes the political, but follows politics closely, and thus is shocked to learn that Lee Kelly, the “never lose” Congressman, has lost the most recent election. And he is even more stunned to hear that shortly after Kelly’s election defeat, that he is killed in a car accident. But perhaps the most surprising revelation of all: right before he died, Kelly left a voicemail on Sharpe’s cell phone.
It’s this voicemail that first allows Sharpe to discover a voting fraud scandal that is skillfully planned and global in scale. Through a combination of information left via the voicemail and meticulous research of his own, Sharpe comes across a company called Abacus, which mass manufactures voting machines. More careful research leads Sharpe to discover that Abacus voting machines were used in dozens of counties in Ohio that, in the previous election, voted in candidates who were not expected to win.
In alternating chapters, the reader meets the powerful, deadly, and cunning Russian energy baron Oleg Kazarov, whose combination of money and fear tactics has allowed him to buy his way into American politics. Through his dubious Energy 2020 initiative-an environmental effort reminiscent of the real life Keystone XL Pipeline-Kazarov first ensnares Washington lobbyist Ariens, and later, after he has Ariens killed for disobeying his wishes, Ariens’s even more sinister friend, House Majority leader Stanton. A true embodiment of the sleazy, womanizing politician, Stanton employs a potent mixture of power, intimidation, and favor to get what he wants.
But it is Stanton’s exploitation of his junior employee Joanie Simpson that first leads Sharpe to him. When Joanie is mysteriously killed, Sharpe is able to put together all of the puzzle pieces, and connect the treacherous triangle of Kazarov, Stanton, and Abacus. In a heart-pounding race to the end that includes kidnapping and humiliation on live television, Sharpe emerges as a deserving hero in uncovering the Watergate of the new millennium.
While at times unapologetically pessimistic in regards to American politics, David Pepper’s The People’s House is ultimately an engaging and enjoyable read for any mystery fan or reader of books about modern American politics.