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The Washington Decree    by Jussi Adler-Olsen order for
Washington Decree
by Jussi Adler-Olsen
Order:  USA  Can
Dutton, 2018 (2018)
Hardcover, CD, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

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.

His Foreword reminds us that 'mighty empires come and go' in world history, and speaks of a recent 'restructuring of constitutional mechanisms that, in the wrong hands and under the wrong conditions, could have unpredictable consequences' in the United States. The author then proceeds with a fictional account of how that might happen today - let's make sure that this remains fiction!

In 1992, we meet young Dorothy 'Doggie' Curtis, who participates in a quiz show and wins a trip to China, alongside Virginia's Governor Jansen and others who will play key parts in what follows - African-American Rosalie Lee, Sheriff T. Perkins, young Wesley Barefoot, and journalist John Bugatti. Tragedy strikes on this journey though, and the governor's beloved wife dies.

Fast forward to 2008 when Doggie is a lawyer and a staffer for Jansen's presidential campaign, as is Wesley. Jansen has married again, his wife Mimi is pregnant, and a win looks certain. Then tragedy strikes again - and Doggie's father is implicated. Nevertheless, she ends up with an office in the White House, where Wesley is the new press secretary.

As Doggie struggles to process her father's situation, Wesley is shocked by sudden and extreme changes in Jansen's policy positions, starting with a law and order proposal that's 'a frontal attack on practically the entire Bill of Rights'. Violent attacks on the families of powerful Washington figures garner support for the President, his chief of staff, Thomas Sunderland, and their new law and order program, becoming known as the Washington Decree.

What follows is a steady stream of executive orders from the White House and a devolution of US democracy. Though shocked and horrified, Wesley continues to do his job - which seemed unlikely to me until I thought about the actions of current White House staffers. Meanwhile, Doggie begins to question her father's guilt, and to investigate. Ending up on the run from authorities, she's helped by those she traveled with to China long before.

Together, they start to make sense of what has been happening - and Wesley's conscience (as well as his love for Doggie) eventually bring him onside as well. But will they be in time to foil the deadly plot that's really behind the Washington Decree? Don't miss this thought provoking, but very disturbing, thriller, and make sure to read the Afterword on the 'movement from democracy to autocracy' in the United States.

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