Review: The Rumor Game, by Thomas Mullen

Last year, I read Thomas Mullen’s Blind Spots, a novel set in the near future with an intriguing premise. I enjoyed it, and looked forward to reading The Rumor Game. This book is set in the past — during the early days of World War II, in Boston. It’s the story of a young, Jewish woman journalist who’s keen to expose pro-Nazi Fifth Columnists in the city and an FBI agent who wants to help — but whose own family is linked to the isolationist and antisemitic Right. While the book is well-written and well-researched, and the characters are engaging enough, the plot lacks tension. Chekhov famously wrote “One must never place a loaded rifle on the stage if it isn’t going to go off.” This book has literally a crate-load of stolen military rifles which singularly fail to go off. There is a build-up to an event filled with menace but nothing much happens at that event. I felt that the ending of the book was a let-down on several levels, in part because I know this author is capable of doing better work.