I was a big fan of Lee Goldberg's True Fiction, the first novel featuring Ian Ludlow. Ludlow is a novelist who writes thrillers featuring Clint Straker, an action hero on the order of James bond or Jack Reacher. In True Fiction, poor Ludlow was stunned to discover that someone had taken one of his ideas and turned it into a real, live terrorist plot. Ludlow is overweight, out of shape, and often terrified--in short, the polar opposite of the hero he created. But left with no other alternative, Ludlow was forced to leap into action himself, with the help of a dog walker and author escort named Margo French, in an effort to defeat the terrorists.
Happily, the crisis passed and things have now returned to normal. Ian is back at work, quietly working on a new Straker novel in which the Chinese, through multiple devious methods, are attempting to take over the United States and, by extension, the rest of the free world.
As the book opens, Ludlow is preparing to go to Hong Kong to research his new novel and to visit the site where the new Clint Straker movie is being filmed. Margo, who was badly traumatized by the events of the first novel, has disappeared, attempting to regain control of her life. She hasn't had much success though, and shows up at Ian's door just as he's preparing to leave. She's terrified of being alone and insists that Ian take her to Hong Kong with him.
Ludlow agrees and off they go. Sadly, though, he's done it again. He's written another novel in which the events he describes are really taking place. As he explains to Margo, "The basic premise of my novel is this. China is invading the United States with cash, not soldiers. They are buying key companies across our economy. Hotel chains, movie studios, drug companies, carmakers, agricultural seed companies, you name it."
Ian explains that the Chinese are also hacking our computers, stealing our data and intellectual property, and threatening our way of life. The problem, though, is, that the Chinese actually do have such a master plan, and when they learn the premise of Ludlow's novel, they presume that he is an American spy, coming to Hong Kong to foil their plans. Obviously, he must be stopped at all costs.
The result is that Ian is once again thrown into the maelstrom and will have to somehow save himself, Margo, and the American Way of Life as well. It's a tall order, and while Clint Straker would be up for it, Ian Ludlow will need a lot of help and even more luck.
This is another hilarious send up of the thriller genre while, at the same time, being a genuine thriller in and of itself. There's plenty of action and even more laugh-out-loud moments. The actor playing Clint Straker, for example, is an action hero named Damon Matthews. When Margo insists that Matthews is way to short to play Clint Straker, almost every fan of crime fiction will get the reference, and there's plenty more where that came from.
Lee Goldberg, who would appear to be even more prescient than Ian Ludlow, has had the wisdom or the good fortune, to launch this book just at the moment when relations between the U.S. and China appear to be going down the tubes, and for some of the very reasons that Ludlow articulates. If only the solution to our current problems were as simple as sending Clint Straker, or Ian Ludlow, or even Lee Goldberg to straighten them out. Sadly, that's probably not going to happen. The good news, though, is that we have this excellent novel to keep us entertained while we attempt to ride out the storm.