Empire of Lies

Empire of Lies

3.7 16
by Andrew Klavan

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Sustained by a deep religious faith, Jason Harrow has built a stable family and become a pillar of principle and patriotism in the Midwest. Then the phone rings, and his past is on the other end of the line. A woman with whom he once shared a life of violence and desire claims her daughter is missing—and Jason is the one man who can find her.


Sustained by a deep religious faith, Jason Harrow has built a stable family and become a pillar of principle and patriotism in the Midwest. Then the phone rings, and his past is on the other end of the line. A woman with whom he once shared a life of violence and desire claims her daughter is missing—and Jason is the one man who can find her.
Returning to New York City, Jason finds himself entangled in a murderous conspiracy only he can see and only he can stop—a plot that bizarrely links his private passions to the turmoil of a world at war. Hunted by terrorists and by the police, Jason has only hours to unravel an ex-lover’s lies and face the unbearable truth: In order to prevent a savage attack on his country, he’s going to have to risk his decency, his sanity, and his life.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Edgar-winner Klavan (True Crime) delivers a wickedly satiric thriller with political overtones. Jason Harrow was cynically immoral before he found God and became a conservative Midwestern family man. Now his former lover summons him back to New York City with the news that his teenage daughter (one he never knew about) is in trouble, mixed up with terrorists who are plotting a major atrocity. To save his daughter and thousands of others, Jason must confront the buried fear that he's inherited his mother's insanity and can't control his own dark urges. As Jason's insecurity intensifies, so does the novel's nightmarish mood. Disgusted by the excesses of the liberal media, Jason discovers that he's not just paranoid, he really is a persecuted outsider. The action builds to an explosive climax at the screening of a 3-D movie at a Manhattan theater. (July)

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Kirkus Reviews
A Midwestern developer is recalled to New York, where the wild oats he sowed years ago are waiting to pull him into a terrorist plot. Long before religion and middle age claimed him, Jason Harrow was into the S&M scene. Now, out of the blue, his last partner, Lauren Wilmont, calls him to say that she needs his help with something she can't talk about over the phone. It turns out that Serena, her teenaged daughter, has run away, and she wants Jason to talk her into coming home. It's no great trick to find Serena, who may be his own daughter, but her drunken babbling about how "I didn't know they were going to kill him" warns Jason that he's stumbled onto something scary. The first of a series of monumental coincidences links Serena's ramblings to college student Casey Diggs, who vanished after taking heat for his newspaper story about an inflammatory anti-Zionist rally on an unidentified campus readers will have no trouble recognizing. Realizing that he's either incredibly paranoid or that Serena knows just enough about a terrorist group to endanger herself and everyone around her, Jason labors to prevent "the End of Civilization as We Know It" as he juggles his loyalty to her, Lauren, the justice system and the values that have sustained him in a life he fears is rapidly slipping away. Klavan (Damnation Street, 2006, etc.) gets a C-minus for plausibility, an A for thrills. Agent: Robert Gottlieb/Trident Media Group
From the Publisher


"Klavan crafts a taut, tense noir leavened with rollicking mayhem and romantic yearning. A-."—Entertainment Weekly

"Klavan’s writing is masterful, and his characters superbly drawn."—Forbes

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1. Out of the Past

The day it began was an autumn day, a Saturday afternoon in October.

I was sitting in a cushioned chair on the brick patio at the edge of my backyard. The air was clear and warm with a hint of chill in it. There was a wind off the lake across the way—thunderstorms coming, though they weren’t yet visible over the water.

I was looking down half an acre of grassy slope to where my two boys, Chad, ten, and Nathan, seven, were organizing some kind of Frisbee game around the swing set with some of their friends from the neighborhood. The boys were letting their three-year-old sister, Terry, tag along with them. I found this very heartwarming.

I was forty-five years old. The reedy figure of my youth was growing thicker at the chest and waist, but I was still trim enough. My once-sandy hair was thinner and darker, with a sprinkling of gray. My once-boyish face was not so boyish anymore, though I think it was what they used to call an honest face, smooth, clean, and open, the blue eyes bright.

My wife was in the kitchen making us some lemonade. My wife was named Cathy and I can’t say how much I loved her, not without sounding like a sentimental idiot, anyway. We had been together twelve years then, and I still sat up sometimes at night and watched her sleeping. Sometimes I woke her because I felt so grateful for her and so passionate I couldn’t help but trace her features with my fingertips. If this bugged the hell out of her, she never let on. But then, she was a cheerful and generous creature who would melt into lovemaking at a look or a touch.

We had a deal between us, Cathy and I. Our deal was simple. It was agreed to at the start in no uncertain terms.

When I first came to this town from New York seventeen years ago, I edited the local paper. I started out as city editor and was promoted to managing editor pretty quickly. The city had an insanely left-wing government at the time, and so, of course, it was spiraling into bankruptcy and chaos. There were high taxes supporting lavish payoffs to the unions, high crime because of lenient judges and tight restrictions on the police, and strangulation by regulation for any businessman stupid enough to hang around. It was a government like a garrulous fat man moralizing over a dinner for which he would never pick up the bill. I helped run them out of town. My paper printed story after story showing why every one of their policies would fail and proving it by showing where they had failed in the past. Plus we exposed the corrupt political machine churning away as usual under all the welfare. Within three years, the voters threw the bums out. The unions were crushed in the next round of contract negotiations. Taxes and useless programs were cut. Bad guys started going to prison. New businesses started popping up, people started making money again, and—surprise, surprise!—the government’s share of the profits brought it back from the brink despite the lower taxes. In short, the streets grew clean and the city grew rich, and my newspaper and I had a hand in it. For this, I can proudly say, I was roundly despised by some of the best-educated and wealthiest people in town. Something about my uncaring, insensitive editorial policy. Elites hate to be proved wrong by the common man.

My boss, however, liked me. The man who owned the paper was a billionaire land developer named Lawrence Tyner. He convinced me to leave the paper and come into his real-estate business. He taught me the ropes and helped me to invest in the city itself and the surrounding countryside. Ultimately, I made my fortune with him. And I met Cathy, who was one of his lawyers.

I didn’t think much of Cathy at first. I didn’t think she was all that pretty, for one thing. "Efficient-looking," I would’ve called her. She was short and full-figured, bordering on pudgy. She had medium-length brown hair and a sweet, friendly face. She always seemed harried, hurried, on the edge of panic, was always running off to some zoning-board hearing or other with her giant purse and a stack of folders under her arm. It made me nervous just to look at her.

Then one day around Christmas, her boyfriend broke up with her. I didn’t know this at the time. He lived in another city halfway across the state. He’d been stringing her along for years. He was one of those horrible mild guys. You know? Really earnest and caring all the time. Narrowed his eyes a lot and nodded without lowering his chin, his lips all pursed and serious. For about five years, he used this New Man sensitivity to manipulate Cathy into hanging around. Then he met someone he liked more, and Cathy was out.

Anyway, our office Christmas party came along. Everyone was drinking and singing and getting up to mischief and so forth. I wasn’t much of a drinker anymore, so after a while I took a stroll through the back offices to get some quiet. There was Cathy. She was sitting at her desk in the dark with a paper cup full of bourbon. She wasn’t drunk or anything. She was just sitting there, staring into space. I peeked my head in her door.

"Everything all right?" I asked.

"I hate my life," she told me. This was a woman I’d said maybe twenty sentences to in the year since I’d been working for Tyner. "I did everything right, everything my mother said. She was a feminist, my mother, very fierce. She said I could have it all. She told me what to do, and I did it. I got good grades, the best grades. I went to law school. I got a big job. I never depended on anyone. I even played softball when I was in high school. I hate softball."

This sounded like the start of a long evening. I went into her office and sat down across the desk from her.

"I have a sister," she said, gazing not at me but into the shadows. "She dropped out of college and got married. My parents went nuts, screamed and yelled. It was awful. My sister went to work as a secretary until she got pregnant. A secretary! Pregnant at twenty-two! And then she quit and stayed home and kept house! My mother nearly died. Now she has four children. Her husband owns a small construction company. He’s a great guy. Treats her well. Loves the kids. And my sister is the single happiest person I’ve ever met." She was silent a moment. Her eyes seemed to grope for something in the darkness. Then she said, "I want her life. My sister has the life I want. I know I’m supposed to want my life, but I don’t. I hate my life. I want hers."

It was a funny thing. Sitting still like that, staring into space like that, talking so quietly, she didn’t seem as frantic and efficient as usual. She seemed softer, more vulnerable and much prettier than I thought she was at first.

We dated for three months after that, but I think I knew I loved her that night. We started talking about getting married. I was living in a quaint old two-story shingle on River Street back then. We were downstairs in the kitchen there, sitting over sandwiches. I said to her, "Listen, this thing, this modern thing where, you know, marriage is a partnership and we’re equals, and we share housework and child care and all that—I’m not that guy. I’m, like, the because-I-said-so guy, the head-of-the-household guy, that’s me. Marry me and I call the shots. I’ll break my butt to make you happy, and I’ll try to give you the life you said you wanted. I don’t cheat, I don’t leave, and I am what I say I am. In return, I expect—I don’t know—sex, dinner, some peace and quiet now and then; maybe some affection, if you’ve got any. That’s the best I can do. What do you think?"

Without cracking a smile, she stuck her hand out to me across the table. "Deal," she said.

We shook on it. Then I chased her around the table, tossed her over my shoulder, and carried her upstairs.


Copyright © 2008 by Amalgamated Metaphor, Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at harcourt.com/contact or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

Meet the Author

ANDREW KLAVAN is the author of the best-selling novels True Crime, filmed by Clint Eastwood, and Don’t Say a Word, a film starring Michael Douglas. His work has been nominated for the Edgar Award five times and has won twice. He is a contributing editor at City Journal and his articles have appeared, among other places, in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, and the Los Angeles Times. He lives in Southern California with his wife Ellen. They have a daughter, Faith, and a son, Spencer.

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3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Long,drawn out, boring story...
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katieoscarlet More than 1 year ago
This was a story I both believed and loved. Very believable plot and the narrator of this story was very compelling. This was the only book by Andrew Klavan I have read and now cannot wait to read more of his stories. Throughout I was wondering what would happen next and was pleased with the ending. Highly recommended!
Kataman1 More than 1 year ago
In this thriller, Jason Harrow is thrown into a world in which he doesn't know if what is happening is real or a catastrophe which he needs to prevent. He once lived in New York but moved to the midwest to a more quiet life. He found a simple woman to marry and raised a family and had a successful career as a journalist. When his mother passes away, he and his brother are both asked if one of them can come back to New York to take care of her house. An ex-girlfriend (Lauren) from New York then calls him and tells him she needs to see him. Jason decides that he will be the one to sell his mother's house so he can have an excuse to go back to NY to see his old flame. Lauren tells Jason that her daughter is missing and that her daughter (Serena) is actually his daughter. Apparently she had gotten pregnant just before their split and had never told Jason. Jason decides to play private investigator and track down Serena himself. When he finds her, he realizes that she is very troubled and may have witnessed something terrible. After she seems to play him for a fool and Jason no longer knows if what she told him was the truth. Also, Lauren who seemed anxious at first to get Serena back, seems to have lost total interest. Later some weird conincidences seem to happen regarding Jason's mother's tv and Jason stumbles onto some secrets regarding his mother. Everything seems to be leaning towards "nothing" or to a possible terrorist plot. The book holds you throughout and never gets boring. I did not rate it higher and only barely give it four stars because (note: Possible spoilers below): - The book is narrated by Jason so when there is danger, some of the tension is lost if you know he will survive. - Jason's mother's secret seemed like it was copied from John Nash in A Beautiful Mind. - The reader is able to guess the target of the possible terrorist plot very early in the book. - Jason's family seems to be an afterthought to the story. We see snippets in the beginning of the book and it seemed that Jason was not really interested in his wife when he married her. There is one or two phonecalls home in the book and when Jason is about to do something "bad" he may think about his family but that is about it.
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DanO More than 1 year ago
Wow! Empire of Lies is too real to be fiction. It is today and must be made into a film. No time is wasted in getting you immersed in a world that will shock you but at the same time seems too, too familiar. Klavan brings his characters to life. Next thing you know your looking for them on the bus, the subway ...the plane. Not for the innocent and gentle spirited.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is by far one of the best books I've read in awhile. It grabs you from the first few pages and pulls you in. It is exciting, it is funny and in the world we live in today it feels like it could be true. Andrew Klavan this is your best so far! Good job! A must read!