White King and the Doctor White King and the Doctor by Lee Kessler

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
A thrilling read, the novel White King and the Doctor by Lee Kessler is an intriguing take on the war on terrorism and its effects on the American people.

The novel begins with America reeling under the attacks by Al-Queda and post 9/11, people want answers. But what if the answers they receive aren’t the real ones? What if the press, the news crews, even the CIA, are all being manipulated by a fifth column? What if all of this is part of a master plan? And the bombing and suicide missions are just a small part of the terror being unleashed by Al-Queda?

This is the premise that Kessler follows in her clever blending of fact and fiction in White King and the Doctor. Putting herself in the shoes of Ayman Al-Zawahiri (known as “The Doctor”), Bin-Laden’s second-in-command, Kessler imagines a situation where America isn’t just being attacked, it’s being undermined, by a fiendishly clever strategist who uses multiple simultaneous chess games to help plot his moves.

No one in the White House or in the CIA suspects the danger. Only one man, James Mikolas realizes that something isn’t right and he recruits a young chess genius, Andy Weir to help him look for a pattern in the chaos. Little does he know what an apt choice he has made. For they are all part of a chess game, a deadly game, and Andy is their only hope in beating the Doctor at his own game.

I won’t reveal anymore of the plot since I don’t want to spoil the revelations that follow once Andy’s liaison with the CIA begins. It is intricate and densely plotted so the reader needs pay close attention to everything! Kessler’s use of alternating viewpoints, with one chapter following Andy and James, the other following the Doctor and his fellow terrorists, cranks up the tension and allows the reader to see into the mind of a killer.

In her author’s note, Kessler says that she was prompted to write this novel as a result of the impact of 9/11 and how America seemed more divided as a country after the event, rather than united. This puzzled her and she started to think, “what if there is something more to this?” Using her imagination, coupled with her acting knowledge, Kessler tried to put herself in Al-Zawahiri’s shoes, and to create a back story for him. And so the White King and the Doctor was written. To her surprise, fact started to mirror her fiction in 2003 and 2004. But to find out what she predicted you really must read this for yourself! And rest easy, if you are unsatisfied by the ending … Kessler is already working on the sequel, White King Rising.

Lee Kessler is a television actress, playwright, and stage director. Her career in Hollywood and New York spans 28 years including re-occurring roles in the series “Hill Street Blues” and “Matlock.” Her play, “Anais Nin—the Paris Years,” was produced in New York and Los Angeles, with a subsequent tour on the West Coast. She also directed the West Coast premiere of A.R. Gurney’s “Who Killed Richard Cory?” Since 2000, Lee has invested much of her time and energy in human rights projects designed to protect children in dangerous environments, and has transitioned from primarily an acting career to one in writing.

Lee is also a successful entrepreneur, a pioneer in Internet commerce, and today owns an international Internet business which operates throughout the United States. She currently resides with her husband in Florida and Montana.
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