After an economic collapse, the US Constitution is set aside; civil rights are a thing of the past. A driver can get pulled over just for being out late. Even unpaid parking tickets can warrant harassment and a stint in a holding cell.
This is not the America that Joan Bowman fought for in Iraq; she swore an oath to uphold the constitution. An underground group, The Constitutional Defense Legion (CDL) has formed to do just that, through any means possible. They have adopted John Stark’s motto, “Live Free or Die” which always elicits “death is not the worst of all evils” as a response.
Joan meets a CDL recruiter at the gym, and decides that by joining their forces, she can help overthrow the current tyrannical government. Her reasoning followed the quote from Edmond Burke: ‘The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.’
Joan’s life gets turned upside-down when the CDL decides to make her home into a ‘base of operations’ and moves two other CDL members into it. She learns that asking questions isn’t the best way to get answers; everything is on a ‘need to know’ basis.
Joan is a martial arts enthusiast, putting her fighting skills to good use when some of the CDL’s missions go sideways. Disobeying orders, she uses her own decision-making skills to rescue her colleagues.
She can charm the keys off an unsuspecting suitor while gathering intelligence undercover, with no one questioning her motives. But as Joan starts to rise through the ranks, she starts to question the legion’s direction and becomes wary of the stone-cold, heartless personalities in the inner circle, witnessing unnecessary use of force.
Duncan, who is grooming Joan for his own position, “is” the Legion, and lives for the Legion. He suffers from PTSD from a jungle ambush where he was the sole survivor. His best friend, Kearney, resents Joan and makes no effort to hide it, making her life as miserable as he can. Duncan works closely with Joan but is respectful and distant. Joan is told to be watchful of Duncan, and is unsure, for a while, why everyone is so afraid of him.
Duncan realizes Joan might be the key to unlocking his personal demons, but their budding romance keeps getting interrupted. It was refreshing to see a relationship develop without the cliché “he noticed her curves” or similar sentiment that finds its way into so many stories where a man and woman are forced to work together and then form a connection. Instead, Joan starts to notice Duncan’s physique after a very long time, but knows she can’t trust him as much as she’d like to. After all, he admitted he would have killed her if she hadn’t turned over her house to the CDL.
“Just because a person is paranoid it doesn’t mean there isn’t someone actually following him.” Over time, Joan becomes paranoid from being undercover for so long. Joan knows that no one can get out of the CDL alive and she has few options left. The CDL’s motto, that “there are evils worse than death” begins to haunt her.
Worst of All Evils is a harrowing look into how a terrorist organization might function, how individuals can get trapped in a situation that spirals out of their control, beyond their ability to leave. McClintock doesn’t spare us torture, violence, or even the after-effects of drinking too much. However, the fight sequences and chase scenes are entertaining and fun to visualize.
This thriller will have you on the edge of your seat wondering what is going to happen next. I can easily see Worst of All Evils as a TV series because of the Joan character, a “relatively unnoticeable brunette,” who surprises us at every turn with her skills of observation, quick thinking, as well as with her flaws and mistakes. If you enjoy raw dialogue, fast action, and risk taking (powered by PTSD), you’ll love Worst of All Evils by Janet McClintock.