“Virtue is more to be feared than vice, because its excesses are not subject to the regulation of conscience.” –Adam Smith
Dark Network, the second Imogen Trager novel, follows up on the “gripping” thriller, Faithless Elector. The quote above, from Adam Smith, is the epigraph for Dark Network. It serves to underline the posture of both sides in the book, and it points up the dangers of the stark polarization we see in the real world: people who think they’re right (virtuous) rarely question what they do or why they do it; whereas those who admit to themselves that what they’re doing is wrong (vice) at the very least have qualms and need to justify what they do.
In Dark Network, the bright line between fact and fiction, party and faction, virtue and vice is growing dim. Imogen Trager, the determined heroine of Faithless Elector returns, desperate to stop a murderous dark network intent on seizing the presidency. Once in the White House, with a pliant Attorney General and a do-nothing Congress there will be nothing to stop them.
But first they have to get there.
Taken together—or separately (both thrillers were created to stand alone; there’s no homework required!)—they’re stories about individual courage in the face of adversity, and about what we become in the process. Imogen will have to confront her own outlook as she chases the conspirators. The ultimate question becomes not only, will Imogen stop them seizing the presidency, but what kind of America will be left, even if she does? As she crosses the line between the need for action and her own morals and beliefs (“Imogen stared at the table top, wondering which Constitutional right she would be complicit in violating today. But just as quickly came a flash of anger. Deptford was conspiring to subvert the electoral process and corrupt the Constitution. Now he wanted it to protect him?“), she begins to worry she’s facing a juggernaut that nothing can stop.
Dark Network is about power. The umbral conspirators are bent on taking power for themselves at the expense of everything we hold dear. The chilling, dark recognition at the heart of the plot is that the conspirators would say they were seizing power in order to preserve everything we hold dear. They are doing the right thing, they would say…for us. And people who think they’re doing the right thing are rarely troubled by scruples or conscience.
The tension for the characters in the novel centers on how far they are prepared to go in defense of their principles before they have abandoned them all.
While the thrillers Faithless Elector (March 2016), and its sequel, Dark Network (Oct. 2017) take current events as their impetus and resonate with the daily outrages and machinations of our time, they are first and foremost taut, plot-driven stories. They contend with themes that endure after the headlines have faded and events in the real world appear to have moved on. The latent weaknesses so plausibly exploited by the conspirators still exist.
The Imogen Trager stories are about courage, duty, fidelity and ideology: and what happens when those qualities and ideologies collide.
In Faithless Elector, a small, deadly efficient conspiracy seeks to overturn the result of a close election by getting a number of Electors to switch their votes, to become “faithless electors.” The conspirators operate in the shadows, but it’s getting late in the day and the shadows are lengthening.
In Dark Network, it becomes clear that the conspirators are still trying to influence the outcome. The protagonist, FBI Agent Imogen Trager, must fight against time, a sinister network–even her own colleagues–to find out who’s still trying to steal the election and stop them. There’s barely a month until the inauguration…