THE SENTRIES is about angry white men who are frightened by what they see as the drift of America and construct a drastic plan to put it back on track.
It’s a book which, when read in 2017, manages the strange trick of feeling both timely and incredibly dated. Obviously, these angry white men are still out there, they are still coming up with scarily crazy plans and they still have the utter commitment that their path is the only true one. Except, the angry white men aren’t at the fringes of society anymore, they have the White House and seem determined to smash all that’s good out of the pulpy flesh of Western Society.
At its best, this feels like one of those Stephen King stories where a bunch of disparate people come together to face some dreadful external threat. King however generally has a better grip on the various strands than McBain manages here. There are too many extraneous characters, people who could be completely omitted from the plot with no dent on the narrative whatsoever (including one female character whose motivations are utterly impenetrable). In the plus column, the slow and patient unveiling of the villain’s scheme is masterful, while the villain himself – the darkly charismatic, Jason Tench – is a superbly, menacing presence. But, for all that’s good, it builds to an ironically anticlimactic ending, which is annoyingly frustrating.
It’s not a bad book by any means, at points it’s an incredibly tense and scary thriller. But maybe, read in 2017, THE SENTRIES was always going to disappoint. It’s not the book’s fault, but nothing in it now feels as frightening as real life.