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The Betrayal
Cover of The Betrayal
The Betrayal
A Novel

She worked for one of the most powerful men in government--and she trusted him completely. That was her mistake.

Praised as "a worthy rival of Scott Turow and John Grisham" (Chicago Tribune), Sabin Willett made a powerful debut with his legal thriller, The Deal. Now he's made the leap from the courthouse to the White House in an even more accomplished international thriller involving political corruption, multibillion-dollar deal making, kidnapping, and assassination. At the center of this fast-paced novel is a fascinating heroine: Louisa Shidler, a thirty-seven-year-old U.S. ambassador, mother, and convicted traitor. Betrayed by her husband, her government, and her powerful boss and mentor, she is abandoned by everyone except her daughter, Isabel. But when the girl is kidnapped, Louisa learns that there is no limit to betrayal's reach--and no limit to what one woman will do to survive it.

As the action moves relentlessly from Washington, D.C., to Geneva, Switzerland, from Dubai to Paris to Cody, Wyoming, it becomes evident that Louisa and her daughter are mere pawns in an international bribery scheme of unprecedented proportions. But when the pawns refuse to fall, the bigger pieces begin to topple.

Charged with political savvy, shrewd characterizations, and a tense, tightly constructed plot, The Betrayal is a thriller of the highest caliber that will further enhance Sabin Willett's growing reputation.

She worked for one of the most powerful men in government--and she trusted him completely. That was her mistake.

Praised as "a worthy rival of Scott Turow and John Grisham" (Chicago Tribune), Sabin Willett made a powerful debut with his legal thriller, The Deal. Now he's made the leap from the courthouse to the White House in an even more accomplished international thriller involving political corruption, multibillion-dollar deal making, kidnapping, and assassination. At the center of this fast-paced novel is a fascinating heroine: Louisa Shidler, a thirty-seven-year-old U.S. ambassador, mother, and convicted traitor. Betrayed by her husband, her government, and her powerful boss and mentor, she is abandoned by everyone except her daughter, Isabel. But when the girl is kidnapped, Louisa learns that there is no limit to betrayal's reach--and no limit to what one woman will do to survive it.

As the action moves relentlessly from Washington, D.C., to Geneva, Switzerland, from Dubai to Paris to Cody, Wyoming, it becomes evident that Louisa and her daughter are mere pawns in an international bribery scheme of unprecedented proportions. But when the pawns refuse to fall, the bigger pieces begin to topple.

Charged with political savvy, shrewd characterizations, and a tense, tightly constructed plot, The Betrayal is a thriller of the highest caliber that will further enhance Sabin Willett's growing reputation.

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  • Chapter One

    "Just us," she says to herself while brushing her hair that evening, "just us." Yet Louisa Shidler is no longer one of them, not really. Once, perhaps, when her mentor, Royall Stillwell, began his progression from the Senate to the top post at the Office of the United States Trade Representative, to president-in-waiting as Jim Breed's reelection running mate. But no longer. Life intervened: Isabel's adolescence, the drift of Louisa's marriage, and, to be honest, a certain discomfort with the retail side of politics.

    Now she has become almost an afterthought of the Breed-Stillwell campaign. Her status is uncertain. She is rather like an old girlfriend invited to a wedding: everyone knows that she is no longer relevant, and yet a wary curiosity surrounds her, as the wedding guests wonder what ancient knowledge she brings with her to the reception.

    Brushing her hair, she has all of those thoughts, but smiles anyway. For tonight, status be damned. Tonight is the campaign staff party. Tonight they will drink too many tequilas and vodka Collinses and dance to "Louie Louie" on the tabletops. Holding their ears, they will shout to each other over the noise of the band, and even Louisa will feel like one of the gang. She will relive earlier evenings like this one--for there have been many such evenings in Royall's career. By midnight the fillies will begin to stumble off toward hotel rooms with the happy drunken boys. And she will watch them with a smile, but not follow, for it is then that she will remember Isabel, and the carriage that awaits, and Toby. Toby--maybe.

    But first, Dulaney Stillwell, or, as she is known to everyone, Doolie. (Like that of many southern women, her name derives from some distant male antecedent, but she is known by a feminized diminutive.) Louisa has been seconded to the candidate's wife to escort her to the party at the Willard Hotel. This assignment carries with it an unspoken duty.

    Royall Stillwell's grand, white-brick home in McLean, Virginia, stands secluded at the end of a winding, private lane. If you arrive by day, you see, first, where a massive pin oak dominates a grassy island in the circular drive, and beyond it, the tall chimneys, and then you begin to make out the blue-gray shutters against the white brick. At night, you see little at all, headlights bouncing off the woods that crowd the lane. Louisa drives up about eight. A Secret Service agent trains his flashlight on her driver's license. They don't even know her anymore.

    "Honey," Doolie is saying from somewhere up the carpeted staircase and around the curve of the banister rail, "I don't know what to wear to this party, I'm so old and fat and wrinkled. Whatevuh 'm I gonna do 'round so many pretty boys and girls?"

    There is no fat, not a cubic centimeter of it, on Doolie. Louisa smiles.

    But, like everything Doolie says in dizzy good humor, the remark contains an element of worry. A drop of the glue that holds Doolie's smile in place is that fear, that knowledge that she has used certain basic gifts to get herself where she wanted to be, and that holding her position calls for nearly as much artifice as achieving it did.

    Doolie's position is well fortified. In part, it is the house itself: a three-story, six-bedroom, two-chimney whitewashed-brick redoubt in McLean. In part, it is the elaborate social network she has built and sustained with the dinners and the cocktail parties and the barbecues and the "at homes." Partners for tennis and golf are carefully selected. Doolie has laid out an architecture of social contacts that is deeper and broader and more intricate than anything Royall has achieved in public life.

    Tonight is a...

About the Author-
  • Sabin Willett is a partner with the Boston law firm Bingham Dana. The Betrayal is his second novel. He graduated from Harvard and Harvard Law School and lives outside Boston.

Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    June 1, 1998
    Louisa Shidler, the mercurial heroine of Willett's absorbing if extravagant second thriller (after The Deal), has been betrayed by her philandering husband, but she accepts that. What she can't accept is finding out she's being used as a cover for her boss and mentor, Royall Stillwell, top gun at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative and Republican candidate for vice president. So when Louisa discovers that Stillwell has deposited $50 million in a Swiss bank account in her name, she confronts him with his betrayal. Next thing she knows, she's being ordered to plead guilty to trumped-up federal charges of bribery and money laundering, or her abducted 12-year-old daughter Isabel will be raped and murdered. Louisa complies for a while, then bolts on a cross-country search for Isabel. Meanwhile, Louisa's arrest has mobilized her other mentor, Mac, crusty managing editor of the Washington Herald. Will Mac get the story before Louisa is nabbed by the shadowy Republican goon squad (or, perhaps worse, the FBI)? In Louisa and Mac, Willett creates attractive, full-bodied characters, noble and smart but deeply flawed. (The snobbish Louisa on meeting her lawyer: "A man with stones set into his wedding ring is going to be her advocate?"). Suspense builds in real time as Willett lovingly lingers over the legal niceties of Louisa's predicament, and the juicy dialogue reads like privileged information ("Louisa, do you know what democracy is? It's a client base, honey"). But the chapters written in Isabel's voice are intrusive, and the last third of the book spins out of control as Louisa, now a peroxide-blonde seductress, improbably takes up arms against her former GOP colleagues. 75,000 first printing; Random House audio.

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