“A first rate thriller packed with marvelous insider knowledge and richly drawn characters. I couldn’t put down this electrifying, authentic, and well-crafted novel.” —Douglas Preston, New York Times bestselling author
“Verisimilitude means the appearance of being true or real’ and Karna Small Bodman’s new novel has it in abundance. You will endure a good deal of nail-biting before you get to the end of this, not to mention the heart-stopping action surrounding the countdown. With this book and its predecessors, author Bodman has successfully created a new subgenre: The Washington high-tech thriller.” —The Washington Times
“Karna Small Bodman gives us an insider’s view of a frightening situation that seems all too real. Fast-paced and suspenseful, romantic and ultimately hopeful, Final Finesse is up-all-night reading at its best.” —Susan Wiggs, New York Times bestselling author of Just Breathe
“Final Finesse is a political thrill ride with unpredictable, hair-raising roller-coaster turns, made even more spellbinding by the authentic White House details provided by Karna Small Bodman. A White House insider’s look at terrorism that will keep you up all night!” —Joan Johnston, New York Times bestselling author of A Stranger’s Game
Samantha Reid, the White House Deputy Director for Homeland Security, deals with national security threats on a daily basis. When a natural-gas pipeline explodes in America’s heartland, she senses pending disaster and tries to convince reluctant officials to take action.
After several more explosions, Samantha teams up with Tripp Adams, Vice President of GeoGlobal Oil & Gas, owner of the pipelines, to investigate.
As they race to solve the mystery of the explosions and determine the motives of the shadowy group behind the havoc, Samantha and Tripp spend days . . . and nights . . . together, growing ever closer. Then Tripp is sent on a business trip to South America-and disappears.
Now Samantha must deal with political intrigue at the highest levels, finesse international plots, and break all the White House rules as she races to find Tripp and stop the team of foreign agents before they carry out their final deadly scheme.
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About the Author
Karna Bodman served as White House Deputy Press Secretary under President Ronald Reagan and was subsequently appointed as Senior Director and spokesman for the National Security Council. She attended arms control talks with the Soviets and traveled with the team that briefed the leaders of Great Britain, France and Italy as well as Pope John Paul II. When Karna left The White House to become Senior Vice President of a Public Affairs firm, she was the highest ranking woman on The White House staff. Karna's thrillers include CASTLE BRAVO, CHECKMATE, GAMBIT, FINAL FINESSE,and her short story, THE AGENT. Her next thriller is titled, TRUST BUT VERIFY. She is married to Dick Bodman and they maintain homes in Naples, Florida, Washington, D.C. and Rancho Santa Fe, CA.
Read an Excerpt
GEORGETOWN — MONDAY EARLY MORNING
"All nonessential White House employees remain home due to ice storm. Update in four hours."
Samantha Reid stared at the e-mail and pushed a strand of her long brown hair back off her forehead. She knew that most everyone would try to show up for work today because nobody wanted to be thought of as "nonessential." At least she had a four-wheel-drive jeep she'd been driving for years. Not the most chic car that regularly parked on West Exec, the driveway separating the West Wing from the Eisenhower Executive Office Building — or EEOB, as they all called the big Empire place that housed most of the staff — but it was a car she'd bought near her parents' home in Texas, where everybody drives jeeps.
She glanced out the picture window of her tiny Georgetown apartment overlooking the Whitehurst Freeway. Just beyond was a narrow park lining the Potomac River, its trees weighted down with icicles. To the right, the Key Bridge was silhouetted in the dim predawn light where a lone taxi, trying to navigate the icy roadway, suddenly spun out and slammed into a guardrail.
Good Lord, she thought. It may look like a scene out of Swan Lake, but it really is treacherous out there. She had known a front was moving in, but an ice storm in early December didn't happen all that often and nobody had predicted it would be this bad.
She looked down at her computer again. She always checked her e-mail when she first woke up, as she often got urgent messages from her boss, the head of the White House Office of Homeland Security. They had been working practically round the clock on a whole list of issues and new safety measures, coordinating with the agencies, following up on tips and executing Presidential orders. She had stayed late last night summarizing the fallout from a threat to a big shopping center made the day after Thanksgiving. Thankfully, that one turned out to be a hoax.
Today she knew they would be focusing on other problems, including a new missile defense system they were trying to get deployed on a number of commercial airplanes. She checked her schedule and remembered that a group of airline executives were due for an 11:00 a.m. meeting in the Roosevelt Room. The mastermind of a new 360-degree laser defense, Dr. Cameron Talbot, was supposed to join the airline officers. But now, with the storm raging, she doubted if any of them would make it in.
She also had a meeting to follow up on an attack on the Metro. Transit cops had nailed a guy trying to leave a backpack filled with explosives on board a D.C. train headed for the Pentagon. When the Metro was built, some genius had designed a stop directly underneath the building. What were they thinking?
She shoved her computer aside and padded into the tiny galley kitchen. It looked like it could have fit into a train, with shallow cabinets on two walls, sparse counter space, and a stove that was a relic from the eighties. Her whole condo was less than four hundred square feet, but she had gladly exchanged size for the convenience of a Georgetown address that put her within minutes of the White House, though this morning, inching along the icy Washington streets, she'd be lucky if she'd make it in an hour's time.
She flicked on the small TV set that took up way too much space on the kitchen counter and heard a commercial advertising a new drug. There were pictures of a kindly-looking grandmother pushing a laughing child on a swing while the announcer said in the tone of an afterthought, "Side effects could include dizziness, nausea, muscle weakness, weight gain, and, in rare cases, temporary loss of vision, coma, or stroke." She shook her head at the absurdity of it all, but then heard the news anchor come back on with the weather report. His map showed a wide swath of storms, snow, and ice reaching from Oklahoma all the way up to Delaware, with D.C. on the leading edge.
She measured the coffee, stuck an English muffin into the toaster, and checked her watch. She'd have to skip her morning workout in the basement fitness center. With the added commute time, maybe they'd delay their usual early-morning staff meeting, but she couldn't take that chance. As she reached for a coffee mug, she made a mental note to remind her boss about his appearance on CNN at noon to discuss the Metro train arrest and the shopping center situation. She knew she'd have to write his talking points, but wondered what other potential disaster would have to be added at the last minute.
OKLAHOMA — MONDAY EARLY MORNING
"Honey, wake up! Something's wrong."
Her husband rolled over and made a muffled groan.
"Really. Wake up. It's freezing in here. Furnace must have gone out or something."
"Uh-huh," he mumbled and burrowed down inside the covers.
"Please, honey. I mean it." She reached over and tried to turn on the bedside lamp. "Oh great. Just great. The power's out." The windows in the old farmhouse rattled as a strong gust of wind pushed sheets of ice and snow against the north wall. "It's gotta be thirty degrees in here. We have to get the furnace going or something." She yanked open the drawer in the table and fumbled until she felt the flashlight. She flicked it on and shoved the man until he finally opened his eyes.
"What the ... What do ya mean it's thirty degrees?"
She pulled the heavy quilt to one side and he snatched it back. "See what I mean?" she asked. "The furnace. Do something."
He slowly turned the covers back and ambled to the bathroom, where his terry-cloth robe was hanging on the door. "Okay. Okay. I'll check it out."
"Do you want me to go with you?"
"Nah. Stay warm. Gimme the flashlight. With this wind, it's probably just the pilot light. I figure we should get a new heater one of these days."
"You know we can't swing that now, not with the bills and all."
"I know," he sighed. "Just wish I didn't have to keep fixing the damn thing all the time."
The stairs creaked as he made his way down to the basement and headed to the back. He peered at the furnace and checked the pilot light. Sure enough. Out again. He held the flashlight with his teeth and tried to light it, but it wouldn't come on. He turned the gas valve on and off and tried again. Nothing. He grabbed the flashlight and muttered, "Damnation. Gas ain't gettin' through. Must be a clog or somethin' in the line. Better check the fireplace."
He climbed the stairs, went into the living room and knelt down in front of the weathered brick hearth. He tried the switch that turned on the gas logs. Nothing. He shivered and pulled the belt on his robe tighter. "Never shoulda put in the damn gas logs," he whispered to himself, "regular ones burned fine. But no, she says they're too messy to clean up, so we get the gas logs. Fine mess we're in now."
"What's happening down there?" she called over the banister. "There's still no heat coming on."
"I know, damn it. There's no gas gettin' into the house. No furnace, no fireplace. Nothin' works. Call your sister and see if we can come stay in town till we can get someone to fix the line."
"I can't call her now. It's five thirty in the morning."
He got to his feet and started up the stairs to the bedroom. "So we wait an hour. Get back in bed. There's nothing we can do now but wait."
Several miles to the south, an underground bunker is covered by a golf course. Built in the sixties, it has an elevator taking workers down to a ten-thousand-square-foot facility complete with living quarters, a kitchen, bathrooms, and storage areas, all to support a massive control room where employees of GeoGlobal Oil & Gas monitor their maze of pipelines. The supervisor pointed to a large board covering an entire wall showing a map with red, yellow, and green flashing lights that indicate the status of the lines stretching over a multistate area. Five computer screens have the capability of zooming in on a section of pipeline, checking diagnostics and analyzing their operation.
"Pressure drop on number twelve," he shouted. "What the hell!"
His assistant rushed over and stared at the map. "What the devil is that?"
"Gotta shut her down," he called as he hit a series of computer keys.
"Must be a break of some kind. Helluva storm out there, you know."
"Storms don't knock out our lines. Where the hell were you during Katrina, huh?"
"Yeah, I know, but ... I just wondered ..."
"Stop wondering and start acting," he ordered.
Suddenly several phone lines began ringing at once. The supervisor grabbed the one closest to his console. "Control room here."
"Hey Joe, that you? This is Sheriff Chapoton. Big fire west of town. My deputy just called it in and now our phones won't stop. He says it looks like some gas line exploded. That's gotta be one of yours."
"Exploded? How the hell could that happen?"
"You're the gas guy. You tell me. I've got the fire chief on his way out there with his boys."
"We saw a pressure drop and so we closed down that line. Fire should burn off pretty quick."
"Fine. But what's going on out there?"
"Right now I can't say. But we'll get our crews out there pronto to check it out. We're on it."
The head nurse on the third floor of the small country hospital raced down the hall. "Blankets. We need more blankets," she called out, almost colliding with a doctor coming out of the neonatal unit.
"It's way too cold in there," he exclaimed as he ran out the door.
"With that storm getting worse, we'll probably lose power now, too."
"If that happens we're in deep trouble. No gas coming in and the generator is being repaired."
"We've been begging for a new one for ages."
"Fat chance," he said. "Generator, MRI, CT scan, you name it, we don't have it. Not in this town."
"Could you try to get some portable generators from Don over at the hardware?"
"I'll try, but they won't open for a while."
She looked distraught as she headed into the unit where five tiny souls were wrapped in pink and blue blankets. "He's got to help us," she called over her shoulder as she picked up one of the babies and held her close. The newborn was whimpering. "Whatever happens in this storm, we've got to save the babies!"
THE WHITE HOUSE — MONDAY MORNING
Samantha pulled up to the Southwest Gate of the White House and waved at the agent inside the guardhouse. He saw the sticker on the back of her rearview mirror, and waved back when he also saw the badge she fished from inside her coat. The massive black wrought-iron gate opened to the driveway on West Exec. She headed toward her assigned parking space, giving a mental thank-you to her boss for securing parking spaces for the six heads of his directorates. Gregory Barnes might have an inflated opinion of himself, but she had to admit he looked after his employees, especially the ones who made him look good to the powers that be.
After she had graduated from Princeton with majors in English lit and geology, Samantha had quickly figured out she couldn't make a living with the English part, but geology opened a whole raft of job offers. Her dad was in the oil and gas business, she had been raised near the Texas oil fields, and it was only natural that she would feel quite at home with a subject where she already knew the history as well as the lingo.
She had accepted a position with a consulting firm specializing in energy issues, and when one of her op-ed pieces on energy independence was printed in the Wall Street Journal, Greg Barnes called to ask if she'd accept a position at the Department of Energy, where he was Assistant Secretary. She had called her dad to ask his advice on whether to take a pay cut and go into government. She always remembered his reply: "You can either serve yourself or serve your country!" She took the job.
Secretary Barnes came to rely on her to do his research, write his speeches and statements when he had to testify before Congress, and pull everything together when he appeared on television news shows. The man could speak in great sound bites, and while others in the agency ridiculed his ego behind his back, the talk show hosts loved his act.
When the President asked Greg to be his White House Chief of Homeland Security, figuring he would be a great mouthpiece for the administration, he took Samantha with him. Now every time there was even the hint of a new threat to the country's national security, the television stations clamored for Greg Barnes's take on the situation, which meant Samantha often felt like an adjunct to the White House speechwriters' office, except she wasn't writing for the President, which would have been a total head trip. No. She was writing sound bites for the biggest egomaniac on the staff. And she was sure that today would be no exception.
As she pulled into her spot, she saw the snow swirling against the windshield. Suddenly, she was five years old and her dad had just brought home the little glass globe with a tiny house and the snow inside that swirled when she shook it. She thought about her father down in Houston and wondered if he had been affected by the storm. She'd have to remember to give him a call a bit later.
Grabbing her purse and a black leather folder with some notes for the CNN interview she had drafted last night, she hurried to the door of the West Wing basement and pushed inside. A blast of warm air greeted her in the vestibule. "Good morning, sir," she said to the Secret Service agent as she again waved her White House pass hanging on a silver chain around her neck.
"Morning, ma'am. You made it."
"Took forever, but I'm glad to be here." She quickly walked across the blue carpet, past the door to the Situation Room, and headed up the narrow stairway to her office on the second floor. As Deputy Assistant to the President for Homeland Security, she was one of the lucky few who had an office in the West Wing. Greg had seen to that, too. Hers was a tiny cubicle next to his, but she was grateful for desk space in this building. Most of the staff had expansive offices in the EEOB with sixteen-foot ceilings and tall windows. Some even had fireplaces and conference tables in their offices, complete with leather chairs and bookshelves. Her office didn't even have a window. But that was all right. She knew that if anyone were asked if he would prefer a conference room in the EEOB or a closet in the West Wing, the answer would be obvious. Proximity to power was the name of the game. At least that's what it was in Washington, D.C.
Tossing her folder on the desk and stashing her purse in the bottom drawer, she powered up her computer to double-check the headlines. She scrolled through updates on the nationalization of more American companies in Venezuela; trouble with the new virtual fence on the Texas border; the resignation of Congressman Davis Metcher, who had been sued for additional child support by a former congressional page; the extent of the ice storm, which now had knocked power out in a number of areas; and a gas line explosion in Oklahoma, which killed one and left thousands of people in freezing conditions.
She clicked on the last headline and read the details. A local officer, Sheriff Chapoton, was quoted as saying, "There was a huge gas fire that sent flames sky high. One firefighter has died and another one is in the hospital. GeoGlobal Oil & Gas sent their team to investigate but they told me that so far they haven't figured out how it could have happened. We're in a real state of emergency around here. No gas, no electricity, no telling when the line can be repaired." The article went on to say that hospitals and nursing homes were scrambling to move their patients to other locations. Calls to GeoGlobal had not been returned.
That's odd, she thought. Gas lines don't just explode. And that poor fireman. This is awful. She remembered that a terrorist group in Mexico had sabotaged a number of gas lines some time ago and it had caused huge problems, but she couldn't fathom that a group like that would have a reason to do the same thing here in Oklahoma. She added the story to her notes for the morning staff meeting.
"Okay, folks, a lot on our plate today." Gregory Barnes shuffled some papers as he glanced around the small conference table at the heads of his six directorates.
Excerpted from "Final Finesse"
Copyright © 2009 Karna Small Bodman.
Excerpted by permission of Tom Doherty Associates.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
White House Deputy Director for Homeland Security Samantha Reid has been quietly making her boss look good for a long time. When natural gas line explosions begin happening in America's heartland, Samantha's background in the oil industry makes her sit up and pay attention, even though the explosions are not deemed worthy of White House attention according to her boss, in "Final Finesse." When a vice president of the gas company in charge of the lines that exploded requests a meeting with Samantha, she readily accepts, wanting to dig deeper into this mystery and perhaps prevent more deaths and suffering. When the gas company vice president happens to be Tripp Adams, a gorgeous man whom she went to college with, all the better for Samantha! Samantha and Tripp quickly mesh, both in their agenda to fix the gas line problem and in their personal lives. Then, only a week after being a couple, Tripp has to travel to South America for business negotiations, and Samantha troubles over what she'll do without him at Christmastime. Little does she know, her worries about Tripp are far worse than she thinks. Upon arriving in South America, Tripp is taken hostage for ransom by South American gunmen. Samantha is torn between staying home and championing her cause to figure out the gas explosions, or to head to South America to help with the plan to extricate Tripp. But heck, she's a woman-hear her roar-so why can't she do both? A polictical/romance, former White House Senior Director Bodman's third novel is interesting, but drags in places. A little tighter editing could have made the book a little more exciting.
During a particularly wintry cold spell in Oklahoma, a natural-gas pipeline explodes leaving one person dead and thousands without heat. White House Deputy Director for Homeland Security Samantha Reid leads the investigation in determining the cause. More explosions occur to the pipeline leaving many to wonder if terrorism is the root cause. When Reid meets the pipeline's company GeoGlobal Oil & Gas Vice President Tripp Adams, she immediately wants him. He appears to reciprocate. When he vanishes without a trace while on a business trip in Venezuela, Reid dumps her work and goes AWOL to rescue him. This exciting political romantic suspense thriller takes off from the onset as the temperature in the home of a Sooner couple drops to 30 degrees and never slows down until the final energy segue in the State of the Union address. The story line is fast-paced especially when Reid and Tripp meet for the first time. Although readers will doubt a high ranking political appointee would abandon her post even for love and use her body to gain access on her quest to save Tripp, fans will appreciate this exhilarating tale as Karna Small Bodman once again combines strange bedfellows; romance and politics (see CHECKMATE and GAMBIT). Harriet Klausner