State of Terror by Clinton & Penny

A thriller from start to finish, State of Terror by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Louise Penny tells the tale of an untested Secretary of State fresh into the job who’s met with international and domestic threats on not only her country, but her family. I really really enjoyed this, and I didn’t know if I expected to, but it was great (albeit scary haha).



We meet newly-appointed Secretary of State Ellen, who’s fresh off a trip to South Korea and shows up late to the State of the Union. The current president isn’t her friend in the slightest, and her appointment came as a shock to everyone, most people thinking she was set up to fail.

The new administration is tested when terror attacks break out in Europe, first in London, then Paris, and then in Frankfurt. The seemingly unrelated bombings end up being tied to Pakistan’s nuclear program, as well as Ellen’s son, a reporter with a secret informant related to the bombings. He narrowly escapes the Frankfurt bus bomb, being thrown off by the driver as he tried to raise the alarm minutes before the bomb exploded.

What comes next is full of twists and turns, internal and external threats, and cliffhangers at the end of chapters that had me instantly flipping the page (or, in my case, swiping on my iPad haha). I honestly didn’t know if I’d like this book, and if it would be good or boring, but Hillary definitely draws on her personal experience as Secretary of State, and all of the plot points, good and bad, seem entirely possible which is a bit scary.

We deal with Iran and Pakistan, the Russian mafia, home-grown “patriot” terrorists, and more. I learned a lot about the international security cooperation from this book, such as “Five Eyes,” the heads of information from the US, UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand meeting, which I knew in theory but never knew there was a name. I also learned more about the complexities between Afghanistan and the Taliban with Pakistan and Iran, which I didn’t expect to gain from a fictional book, but the added context was very helpful.

Ellen’s other child, Katherine, is as involved in the plot as her brother, flying secretly into Iran and trekking deep into caves to meet with Russian mafia informants. I liked the family dynamics thrown into the high political stakes, as well as Ellen’s relationship with her counselor and best friend, Betsy.

Perhaps the funniest, and saddest, parallel to real life was when the most-wanted terrorist in the world was treated as a guest at the former president’s Palm Beach home, and he, along with a group of “patriots” tried to set off three nuclear bombs to “rebuild America.” I’d like to think this wouldn’t ever happen here, BUT…

I will say, the problem-solving “good guys” were made up of fictional Democrats AND Republicans, which I appreciated and felt was appropriate. A friend of mine wondered aloud if this book would be too “skewed,” and while there were pretty funny and accurate party-line jabs made by characters, nothing was too deep and reminded me of the Obama-era relations that seemed to exist between both parties, when McCain and Obama had respect for one another and that was felt through Congress. I hope we get back there.

I stayed up entirely too late reading this solely because I could NOT put it down, I was super emotionally invested. They save the day with 3 seconds left on the nuclear bomb about to explode beneath the White House, and the plot to overtake the country is foiled, or so we think… definitely set up the sequel!


  • great political context to all the plot points
  • fast-moving but not overly quick
  • honestly after the past 6 years, it was just nice to see a united front in the fictional gov lol


  • I wish the son and Ana subplot would have been explained a little more?
  • let’s hope no terrorists are given safe refuge in Florida mansions, and the idea that it could even possibly happen is sad so it’s going on this list lol

Strong 4/5 for me, and would be a 4.5 if I was still doing the half stars! I am excited to read the sequel that this book set up.

add to your library