Cover image of "The 3rd Woman," a thriller with an absurd premise

Imagine a brilliant thriller — pulse-pounding, on-the-edge-of-your-seat suspense — in an improbable story based on an absurd premise. There you have it: Jonathan Freedland’s The Third Woman.

Estimated reading time: 2 minutes

The “third woman” of the book’s title is Abigail Webb, a beautiful young woman whose brutal murder has become the highest-profile crime story in the Los Angeles of the near future. Abigail’s older sister, Madison, or Maddy, is an award-winning investigative journalist for the Los Angeles Times, an impulsive and fearless woman of about 30 years of age who takes it upon herself to uncover the truth about her sister’s murder.

Meanwhile, a gubernatorial campaign is underway, with the Democratic mayor of Los Angeles favored to defeat his challenger, a hard-driving prosecutor and TV personality. The Webb murder becomes a political issue when the Republican candidate presses for a quick solution to the crime to embarrass the mayor. Naturally, the story is a lot more complicated than that, but that’s the gist of it. To give Freedland full credit, it’s well-told and races from beginning to end at breakneck speed.

The Third Woman by Jonathan Freedland ★★★☆☆

However, throughout this book, I found myself gritting my teeth over the absurdity of the novel’s premise: that the refusal of the U.S. Congress to raise the federal debt ceiling has led to an immediate collapse in the American economy and its ascendancy in the world — to the extent that China has imposed a one-sided Treaty on the U.S., seizing control of all our West Coast ports in a fashion reminiscent of the 19th century treaty ports held in China by Westerners. To guarantee payment of the interest on the enormous U.S. debt held by Beijing, China has stationed garrisons everywhere to garnish our customs revenue.

About the author

Jonathan Freedland is an award-winning columnist for the Guardian, so he should know better. The Third Woman is his seventh book. It was preceded by two nonfiction books and four thrillers under a pseudonym. He should have kept the pseudonym for this novel, too.

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