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Hobgoblins    by Jacob Jaffe Amazon.com order for
Hobgoblins
by Jacob Jaffe
Order:  USA  Can
iUniverse, 2006 (2006)
Paperback

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*   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

The plot of Hobgoblins, by Jacob Jaffe, isn't new. Several people, some of them well-known authors, have written about shady characters forming new political parties and turning the United States from a democracy into a Nazi state. Jaffe is a psychologist, however, and his version presents the Hitler-like figure as a mentally ill paranoid who is sponsored by an ultra-wealthy Consortium, who already control the country, but, being human, want more power and control. Unfortunately, the book is awkwardly written. The reader is not given credit for being able to figure anything out by himself. Everything we're told is explained, just so we'll be sure to understand. In a thriller, not only should nothing be explained, but we don't even have to be told the first time about some things. Figuring out where the author is going is half the fun of reading the book.

Parts of this book read like case studies, and there are whole long paragraphs that are nothing but questions. The main character keeps second-guessing himself and just about all the action. Frequently the questions are addressed to a small statue of Buddha, a literary device that becomes annoying to the reader because Marty Ritter, the main character, will almost always end these with answers from Buddha or a comment such as Buddha didn't say, or Buddha remained silent. Buddha is a statue, so of course he doesn't answer. If all the annoying lists of questions, three-fourths of the references to Buddha, especially the ones that end with Buddha remaining silent, and the explanations of all the action were left out, the book would be shorter, more readable, and possibly more of a thriller.

Unfortunately, I would still dislike this book. The characters, even Marty, were shallow and unpleasant. Marty lies to his fiancÚ, his patients, his supervising teacher, and just about everyone he knows, whether they're friends or not. He's an alcoholic who drinks so much that he has hangovers every morning. I found it hard to believe that this inept psychology student was supposed to be able to treat John Gerard, the Nazi wannabe, so well that his psychosis and paranoia aren't apparent to anyone else, and everyone in the whole U.S.A. believes he'd make a great President. The most likeable character is Marty's father, who has been locked up in a mental hospital since having a psychotic break after his wife died. We're told that the fiancÚ Sharon is a wonderful, intelligent, helpful person, but she comes across as a frigid nag.

The overall theory that money rules the country and that we could be tricked into electing an insane megalomaniac President is too cynical. Lobbyists are portrayed as evildoers controlled by the wealthy, but in reality political people and lobbyists have many agendas. Not all of them are bad, and not all of them hurt people. The unbelievable plot, the poorly developed characters, and the repetitive disjointed writing made Hobgoblins a difficult book to read.

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