I picked this up based on a positive review over on Smart Bitches and indeed, it is quite excellent. There are weak moments: facial recognition is taken entirely too seriously, and honestly there's just way too much concern about being tracked quickly on security cameras. The main character doesn't at any point entertain simple things like wearing hijab as a way of making it difficult/impossible for people to figure out where she's gone. She doesn't make any use of public transportation options. Even granting being overly concerned about cameras, she makes absolutely no effort to use any DC area bus system -- she goes all the way out to Charlottesville (well, she tries anyway) and steals cars rather than getting on a frickin' bus. She is worried about hitchhiking, which given her training makes zero sense. She wanders all over the place shopping, but it doesn't seem to occur to her that she could, in fact, just walk a dozen or so miles, get on a curbside bus (Megabus, say) and go wherever the hell she wants. Nor does she call for car service. It is mysterious. Given that she doesn't make any concerted effort to get rid of everything that might have been bugged, it sort of doesn't matter, but then the hero is really impressed when she buys a bike. *sigh* Honestly, I'd have been more impressed if she had stolen one. Also, if you're going any distance at all on a bike, a backpack is a bad choice.
So the middle of the book suffers from a whole lot of technical issues, and this is characteristic for the author -- it's a major contributor to me Not Reading Linda Howard very often. That said, large sections of the rest of the book are actually quite compelling. Howard doesn't get into much detail on the chemical brainwashing treatment to which Lizzy/Lizette was subjected. And that's _great_. I was really impressed by that. It's very hard to recognize that you should just assert the existence of something and build it into your world without explanation and I'm always impressed when people Just Do It. It is so much better than a bunch of hand-wavy, boring, pseudo scientific explanation.
The political backstory is weak.
HEY I SAID SPOILERS I MEANT SPOILERS
Fortunately, the political backstory is mostly relegated to the last quarter or less of the book and is run through very quickly, thus minimizing the pain of: the heroine used to look JUST LIKE the first lady, but no one knew the first lady until she was the first lady. Seems implausible to me, but I'm a news junkie, so I know what a lot of powerful people look and sound like -- and frequently discover that no one else remembers ever seeing them on TV so I guess believable. On the other hand, FLOTUS in the story is supposedly a member of a very famous political family. And yet still unknown in appearance? *shrug* The surname Thorndike. The idea that the President was selling military secrets to the Chinese for lots of money and FLOTUS was the go-between for the financial transaction. Just No. The idea that the group had clear cut evidence of treason at all. POTUS and FLOTUS confronting our heroine with a gun, instead of deploying someone else against her. Just, weird. Seriously weird.
To sum up: weak backstory. Big technical FAILS in the middle of the book. A really nice McGuffin with the chemical brainwashing. An enjoyable erotic/romantic relationship between the two main characters. Kind of claustrophobic -- everyone onstage is involved, with the exception of some people at WalMart and the drunk guy -- but that actually is a positive in some ways, because it helps contribute to the How Big Is This Conspiracy Anyway? feeling. I doubt I will reread it. I doubt I will go search out more Linda Howard. However, if I read very positive reviews of other books by this author, this won't stop me from trying another one of hers in the future.