Book Review: Secrets of State

Author: Matthew Palmer
Publisher: Putnam
ISBN: 9780425281017
Genre: Thriller


A former top expert at the State Department, Sam Trainor was forced out of the Washington establishment and into the private sector, working as an analyst for a consulting firm. As he struggles to adjust to a corporate, profit-driven version of the work that had been his life, he stumbles across an intelligence anomaly—the transcript of a phone conversation about upending the delicate political balance keeping India and Pakistan from all-out-war. Yet Sam knows that conversation can’t have occurred—because he is having an affair with one of the alleged participants, and they were together at the time of the call.

As he digs into the source of this misinformation, he realises there is more at stake than just bad intel. Someone is deliberately twisting the intelligence to stoke the simmering conflict between India and Pakistan, nuclear-armed rivals that have already fought multiple wars. And Sam’s new employer could be at the centre of it.


This is a solid outing from Matthew Palmer, an author that knows his stuff. SECRETS OF STATE is a thriller with all the right ingredients, which hit all the right notes. The characters are nothing new, but familiar territory is okay as long as there is enough elsewhere to make up for it. And while the plot is nothing new either—terrorists stealing a nuclear weapon to blow up a city—again, that was okay, as the author came at this from a slightly different angle, with a new view while covering old ground. All of which freshened up a doomsday scenario with likeable enough characters that were capable and engaging.

Set against the backdrop of simmering tensions between India and Pakistan, Palmer gives us a what-if that’s oh so plausible right now. And while most authors are focused on the usual suspects and setting that are becoming tired, he reminds us that the world at large is still a very dangerous place and has far more players on the world stage than we usually think about.

What sets SECRETS OF STATE apart from the average read, are the small things. And it’s not often we get a view of places like Mumbai and it’s slums—never mind the people that live there. A thoroughly enjoyable, and quick read, so much so I’ll be buying a few more of Palmer’s works as I suspect they’ll be just as enjoyable a romp as SECRETS OF STATE was.

Rating : 7.5 / 10

Previous Book Review: The Thicket
Next WWW Wednesday


  1. October 28, 2019

    As you said Alexandra this seems really plausible right now!!!!!

    • Alexandra
      October 28, 2019

      That’s part of what makes reading novels like this both interesting, but scary at the same time, Sophie.

  2. This sounds really good and a bit different. I enjoy stories set on the global stage.

    Excellent review, Alexandra💜

    • Alexandra
      October 28, 2019

      It was a captivating read, and, funnily enough, I could see it working well in audio too, Jonetta. It has all the classic thriller ingredients, and is an engrossing read if you like your thrillers centred on political intrigue.

Leave a Reply