I recently read America’s Fool: Las Vegas & the End of the World by Jay Amberg, which was a fun read. The book is a thriller set during the Obama administration, probably in the first year or two after the Great Recession.
Andy Wright is a TV reporter who is more of a pretty-boy personality than a hard-core journalist. While in Las Vegas to film a series of stories about how the recession hit the city, he goes hiking in Red Rock Canyon. When a hailstorm kicks up, he takes refuge in a cave and falls down a rock chimney, landing in a chamber with a hidden cache of mysterious canisters. As he inspects them, something stings him from behind, and he passes out. The next thing he knows, Wright wakes up by the side of a road on the other side of the ridge where he had taken refuge—to discover that a beautiful, female Iranian doctor has found him and is attending to his bruises. If that’s not strange enough, when Wright gets to his feet, he notices there are no tracks—none at all—to hint at how he got to where he is.
The series of mysteries nags at Wright, who has grown more than a little disillusioned about how glib his career has become. He and his producer, Maggie McNamara, start looking for answers, and at first, discover more questions. Who is Dr. Fereshteh Raisani, and how did she happen to come along a little-used road just when Wright needed her? And who is Nick Larson, the solitary desert wanderer that Wright meets when he goes back to find the motorcycle that got left in the desert when he had his accident?
Little by little, Wright and his producer uncover a terrifying plot. Joseph Wengelt, the fanatical leader of a religious cult that lives on a compound in the Mojave Desert, has decided to summon forth the “Day of the Lord” upon sinful, apostate America by unleashing the most virulent poison ever invented. He is aided in his plan by an ignorant white supremacist and a cold-blooded security officer who dreams of establishing his version of constitutional government. Wright and McNamara remain hampered by what they don’t know. When is the attack supposed to take place? What are the targets of the conspiracy? Do they know for certain where all the canisters of poison are—and if not, will their investigation trigger a pre-emptive strike?
America’s Fool has well-drawn characters and vividly described settings. It was a fast-paced read that kept me enthralled during a long afternoon of sitting in a hospital waiting for tests—despite the noise of the ubiquitous television and the chatter of patients and medical personnel at the nearby reception desk. I think that’s a pretty strong recommendation.