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The Zero Game

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

When United States Congressional staffer Matthew Mercer is invited to join a betting pool by his college friend and fellow staffer, Harris Sandler, he leaps at the chance to be part of what he sees as the Washington in-crowd. The game involves anteing bets for the chance to make something happen in Congress: tricking your Senator or Representative into entering a foolish line of text into the Congressional Record, adding an innocuous rider to a huge bill, and so on. Nothing life-threatening. Certainly nothing very “wrong.”

Yet, when Matt wins the wager to get the sale of a defunct South Dakota goldmine included in an appropriations bill, things begin to spin out of control. Soon Matt is dead and his friend, Harris, is on the run with a young Senate page, Viv Parker, whom he foolishly involved in gleaning some information about Matt’s murder.

The two temporarily elude Janos, a brutal assassin determined to kill these two loose cannons who threaten the real business behind the betting scheme. Although Harris and Viv make it safely to the mine site in South Dakota, even finding some clues in the mine’s labyrinth, they are no less safe than before.

As Harris and Viv move around the country in search of answers, they discover that something much more sinister than an insider’s prank bet is in the mind of their lobbyist and supposed friend, Barry Holcomb, the anonymous mastermind pulling the strings in this deadly game of chase. The goldmine is actually a front for a scientific scheme that, if successful, could change the balance of world political power.

The action is fast, the plot well-turned, and the characters believable. For readers seeking a page-turner full of suspense and surprises, Brad Meltzer’s The Zero Game will not disappoint.