Book Review: “House Rules” by Mike Lawson

Genre: Thriller

Rating: 4 Water Towers

This book is an advance reader copy (uncorrected proof). “House Rules” by Mike Lawson is due in stores, in hardcover, in June 2008. It can be pre-ordered at

The back cover PR says that “Mike Lawson is a talented thriller writer who is only getting better”. That is an understatement…….Mike Lawson has catapulted himself into (in my mind) the ranks alongside such greats as Baldacci, Flynn, and Thor. “House Rules” is one terrific book.

As “House Rules” opens, several foiled terrorist acts have the nation on edge.

The first foiled attack prevented two American Muslim’s from blowing up the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel. Unfortunately, the third member, and leader, was not in the building at the time of the FBI raid and was not captured. Upon questioning the two young men the FBI were able to identify the man, “Muhammad” , as an “honest-to-God al-Qaeda operative”.

Two weeks after that aborted attack, Senator William Davis Broderick introduced a bill that would severely limit the freedom of all Muslims (citizens or not) in the U.S. Think real life Senator McCarthy in the 1950’s. Introducing the bill made Senator Broderick an instant media star, but, it was three more American Muslim terrorist attacks (all were foiled) that catapulted the bill to approval in the Senate and moved it to the House, where it sat in deliberation per instructions from Speaker of the House John Mahoney.

One of the attempted attacks was on the White House by an American citizen and lawyer, Reza Zarif, who was flying a Cessna into restricted air space over Washington D.C. The Air National Guard scrambled two F-16 fighter aircraft and tried to elicit a response from the Cessna. Getting no response, and seeing that the plane had started it’s descent toward the White House, one of the F-16’s shot the Cessna out of the sky. Subsequent FBI investigations determined that Reza murdered his entire family before boarding the plane and that he had al-Qaeda connections. The general consensus was that he “snapped” under the stress of his life.

We find out, however, that Mahoney is a long time friend of Reza’s father and Mahoney suspects foul play, or dirty doings. He knows Reza would never do this nor would he ever kill his own family.

This is where Mahoney asks Joe DeMarco, special Congressional troubleshooter, to find out the true story behind the situation. The FBI had a theory, and it sounded great, but, where others fail to uncover the whole truth, DeMarco, Emma (yes! she is back), and computer geek, Neil, succeed. With additional help from individuals in Homeland Security, FBI, and other law enforcement agencies, DeMarco’s team uncovers a complex, multi-layered, plot to enlist these American Muslims to commit terrorist acts…..with the express purpose of encouraging the passage of Broderick’s “Muslim Registry” bill.

DeMarco and friends slowly unravel the truth, and people, behind the plot. The mystery, intrigue, and violence ratchet up as time and time again well laid plans and schemes to uncover the next higher person in the plot are hindered by surprising and complicated twists and turns. Great reading!

Remember Muhammad?

With all the effort to uncover the mastermind of the foiled attacks, Muhammad has quietly slipped away and focused his effort on a new plan that could kill hundreds, or thousands, of innocent people.

The ending of the book wraps up the foiled attacks and the fate of the people involved then focuses on how Muhammad’s new plan and DeMarco’s life collide. The frightening part of Muhammad’s plan is that it could happen, in real life, given the current state of preparedness, or un-preparedness.

To find out what happens, you will have to read the book.

In an email, Mike Lawson has told me that a fourth book is in the works.

Before “House Rules” comes out, I would recommend reading “The Inside Ring” and “The Second Perimeter” to catch up on Joe DeMarco and friends. If you like Thrillers, you will enjoy these books…….guaranteed.

Mike’s Web Site


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