S. Lee Manning’s Trojan Horse explores political intrigue and corruption at the highest levels of government. Questions of deception, loyalty, and conscience are what makes this thriller so absorbing — questions with which, on a smaller scale, we all must grapple.
Margaret Bradford is at the helm of the ECA, a top-secret American government agency. On her team are Jonathan Egan, the son of a former senator, who grew up mixing with the Washington elite; and Kolya Petrov, a Russian Jewish émigré. The team begins to suspect that a high government official must be a mole: three agents have already been killed by the notorious Mihai Cuza, a Romanian national who has the ear of the next leader of Romania.
Bradford and the ECA are trying to find information to take down Mihai Cuza. Their latest plan is to create a Trojan horse, a computer malware that misleads the user of its true intent. But deception is not reserved for the enemy: without his knowledge, Kolya is also designated to take a fall.
On the surface, Trojan Horse is an action story about secret agents fighting to maintain power and control. As the novel progresses, however, questions of fairness and the value of human life rise to the surface. How far can you take a risk with a person’s life? When should you step in and do something about an issue you think is wrong? One of Mihai Cuza’s men becomes uncomfortable with the violence in which he is caught up. He tries to justify his behavior: “I knew what they’d do to him, but since I didn’t have to take part, I didn’t think about it.” Ultimately, Manning shows, it is not so easy to “fool yourself.”
Trojan Horse is a highly entertaining read (although readers should be prepared for some descriptive violence). It contains plenty of suspense and fast-paced action, but also ideas that will leave the reader thinking long after the novel is put back on the shelf.
Merle Eisman Carrus resides in New Hampshire and writes book reviews for the NH Jewish Reporter newspaper. She is a graduate of Emerson College and received her Masters of Jewish Studies from Hebrew College. She blogs her book reviews at email@example.com