Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

House Divided

A Joe DeMarco Thriller

by Mike Lawson

In House Divided, fixer Joe DeMarco gets caught between two of the most powerful organizations in the world: the Pentagon and the National Security Agency.

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 480
  • Publication Date July 03, 2012
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-4589-5
  • Dimensions 4.19" x 6.88"
  • US List Price $7.99

About The Book

With his series featuring Joe DeMarco, fixer for Speaker of the House John Fitzpatrick Mahoney, Mike Lawson has won a reputation as one of America’s best political thriller writers. In House Divided, with his powerful boss out of commission, DeMarco finds himself all on his own, used as a sacrificial pawn in a lethal game between a master spy and a four-star army general. When the National Security Agency was caught wiretapping U.S. citizens without warrants, a political scandal erupted and the secret program came to a screeching halt. But the senior man at the NSA who spearheaded the most sophisticated eavesdropping operation in history wasn’t about to sit by while spineless politicians sleepwalked his country into another 9/11. Instead, he moved the program into the shadows.

But being in the shadows can cause complications. When the NSA illegally records a rogue military group murdering two American civilians, they can’t exactly walk over to the Pentagon and demand to know what’s going on. That doesn’t mean the NSA’s hands are tied, however. As the largest intelligence service in the country, both in money and manpower, they have plenty of options—mostly illegitimate.

DeMarco learns all too well just what the NSA is capable of. They bug him, threaten him, and use him to draw out their opponent. But DeMarco doesn’t like being used. A strong addition to this celebrated series, House Divided continues Mike Lawson’s impressive run of inspired, compelling thrillers.


“The only problem with [Lawson’s] novels is that there are not dozens of them to read!” —JB Dickey, Seattle Times

“I love Joe DeMarco. . . . These are wonderful. I think they’re inventive, nicely detailed, just a treat to read. Great airplane books.” —Nancy Pearl

“Crisply plotted.” —Entertainment Weekly

“A great novel from a great author! Lawson goes for broke in this Machiavellian thriller, where Washington power brokers take on elite super spies with one rather perplexed Joe DeMarco trying to outwit—and outlast—the carnage. Equal parts funny, clever and cool, this book will make your heart race and your mind ponder.” —Lisa Gardner, New York Times best-selling author of Live to Tell

“Lawson’s House Divided is a non-stop thrill ride. The author has created a disturbingly real Washington D.C. and peopled it with eerily familiar characters. He writes with wit and verve and displays a shrewd understanding of bureaucratic irony. Thoroughly enjoyable. The political thriller of the year.” —John Lutz, New York Times bestselling author of Urge to Kill and The Night Caller

“In Lawson’s excellent sixth Joe DeMarco thriller, DeMarco, the fix-it man for womanizing, alcoholic John Mahoney, the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, discovers he can get into serious trouble all on his own without the help of Mahoney, who spends this entry offstage in the hospital. . . . Readers will enjoy watching the smart, funny DeMarco, who’s wise to the ways of Washington, as he extricates himself from one deadly threat after another.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“A cousin’s death draws D.C. fixer Joe DeMarco away from the golf course and into a case that teaches him much about how the war on terror is fought in this entertaining thriller . . . the case moves at a nice clip and the manner and methods of the war within the war on terror are fascinating.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Rating: A. House Divided exemplifies fascinating storytelling with scary overtones. . . . This series is a must read.” —Deadly Pleasures

“Joe DeMarco, ‘fixer’ for Speaker of the House John Fitzpatrick Mahoney, is shrewd, tough, discreet, and resourceful. . . . But when he innocently becomes embroiled in a high-tech joust between the super-secret National Security Agency and the Pentagon, DeMarco realizes he’s a mere babe in the woods. . . . Lawson creates multifaceted characters . . . [and] the pacing is relentless . . . a great thriller.” —Thomas Gaughan, Booklist (starred review)

Bookseller Praise:

“Fans of Mike Lawson’s Joe DeMarco will be pleased that DeMarco’s stepped in it again, as only he can. . . . Lawson’s writing is consistently tight, incisive and driving, and this is yet another example of excellence. His insights into the political machinations of Washington are both revelatory and disturbing, but always honest and brilliant. . . . Another smooth and entertaining escapade.” —J.B. Dickey, Seattle Mystery Books

“Mike Lawson doesn’t mess around with a lot of character details—not much coffee drinking, smoking, sex, dysfunctional families and all that. Instead he creates in House Divided an entangled plot where often indistinguishable government operatives do whatever it takes to protect the country from terrorists. Unfortunately, that ‘whatever’ includes illegal tracking of every electronic device in our pockets from cell phones to car key fobs, followed by the quick, professional ‘removal’ of those domestic and international players of perceived danger . . . and any of those citizens or leaders who might expose the covert organizations who do the removing. Lawson’s world is scary; ‘they’ know everything and will do anything. Only the innocent Joe DeMarco who gets pulled into one such operation has the curiosity, persistence, and hair to untangle the plots and counterplots and learn who is killing whom under whose orders. This is the contemporary post-9/11 government we have created in the name of security. Perhaps the paranoid are right—there is no place to hide.” —Bruce Jacobs, Watermark Books & Café, Wichita, KS


One of Deadly Pleasures Mystery Magazine’s Best Thrillers of the Year
Nominated for the 2012 Barry Award for Best Thriller



A satellite orbits a blue planet, huge solar panels extended like wings.

Alpha, do you have Carrier?

Negative. Monument blocking.

Bravo, do you have Carrier?

Roger that. I have him clear.

Very well. Stand by.

Nothing more was recorded for eight minutes and forty-eight seconds. Time was irrelevant to the machines.

I think Messenger has arrived. Stand by.

Confirmed. It’s Messenger. Messenger is approaching Carrier. Alpha, do you have Messenger?

Roger that.

Bravo, do you still have Carrier?

Roger that.

Very well. Stand by. Transport, move into position.

Four point three seconds of silence followed.

Transport. Acknowledge.

A second later:

Transport. Acknowledge.

Four point nine seconds passed.

Alpha, do you have Messenger?

Roger that.

Bravo, do you have Carrier?

Roger that.

You have my green. I repeat. You have my green.

Three heartbeats later:

Transport, Transport. Respond.

There was no response.

I’ll transport in my vehicle. Maintain positions. Keep me advised.

Nothing more was recorded for six minutes and sixteen seconds.

This is Alpha. Two males approaching from the north. I have them clear.

Alpha, take no action. Do I have time to retrieve Carrier?


Very well. Stand by.

One minute and forty three seconds later:

This is Alpha. The two males have stopped. They may have sighted Carrier. They have sighted Carrier. They’re approaching Carrier. I have them clear.

Alpha, take no action. Transport acknowledge.

Two point four seconds of silence.

Return to jump-off. I repeat. Return to jump-off.

After thirty-five minutes elapsed, a program dictated that the transmission was complete and the recording was compressed and sent in a single microsecond burst to a computer, where, in the space of nanoseconds, it was analyzed to determine if it met certain parameters. The computer concluded the recording did indeed meet those parameters, and at the speed of light it was routed through a fiberoptic cable and deposited in a server, where it would reside until a human being made a decision.


Jack Glazer was getting too old for this shit.

It was two in the morning, rain was drizzling down on his head because he’d forgotten to bring a hat, and he was drinking 7-Eleven coffee that had been burning in the pot for six hours before he’d poured the cup.

And there was a dead guy lying thirty yards from him.

“Has the ME been here?” he asked the kid, some newbie who’d been on the force maybe six months and looked about sixteen years old—but then all the new guys looked absurdly young to him. And naturally the kid was totally jacked up, this being the first homicide he’d ever caught.

“Been and gone,” the kid said. “Forensics sent one guy; he searched the vic, ID’d him from his wallet, and said he’d be back in a couple hours with his crew. They got another—”

“So who’s the victim?”

“The name on his driver’s license is Paul Russo. He was a nurse.”

“How do you know that?” Glazer asked.

“He had a card in his wallet, some kind of nurses’ association he belonged to. He also had the name of an emergency contact, some guy named—”

“Did you write down the contact’s name?” Glazer asked.


“Then you can give it to me later.”

“The thing is, sir, this guy has cash in his wallet and he still has his credit cards and his watch. So I don’t think we got a mugging here. I’m thinking drugs. I’m thinking this guy, this nurse, was pedaling shit. You know, Oxy, Vicodin, something, and he gets popped.”

“Could be,” Glazer said. “But now this is really important, uh . . .” Glazer squinted at the kid’s name tag. “Officer Hale. Where’s the body, Hale?”

Hale, of course, was confused by the question, because the body was clearly visible.

So Glazer clarified. “Hale, is the body in the park or out of the park?”

“Oh. Well, that’s kind of a tough call,” Hale said. “The head’s on the sidewalk but the feet are on the grass. I guess it’s kinda half in and half out.”

“Yeah, I think you’re right. So why don’t you grab his heels and pull him all the way into the park.”

The kid immediately went all big-eyed on Glazer.

“I’m kidding, Hale,” Glazer said, but he was thinking, Shit. Why couldn’t the body have been in the park, or at least three-quarters in the park?

Paul Russo had been shot near the Iwo Jima Memorial, and the memorial was located in a park operated by the National Parks Service. This meant the park was federal property—technically, not part of Arlington County and out of Jack Glazer’s jurisdiction. If the guy had been shot in the park, Glazer would have pawned the case off on the feds without hesitation. He was already dealing with three unsolved homicides and he didn’t need another.

“Where are the two witnesses?” Glazer said.

“In the back of my squad car.”

“Did they see anything?”

“No. They’re dishwashers. They work at a Chinese restaurant over in Rosslyn and were on their way home. All they saw was a body on the ground and called it in.”


Glazer walked over to look at the body: a short-haired, slimly built man in his thirties with no distinguishing features. Just your average white guy. He was wearing a tan jacket over a green polo shirt, jeans, and running shoes. He was clean and healthy-looking—except for the small, red-black hole in his left temple.

Glazer noticed there was no exit wound from the bullet. This surprised him because it made him think that if Russo had been shot at close range, which he most likely was, the shooter might have used a .22 or .25—and that was unusual. Most folks who bought handguns these days, particularly men, didn’t normally buy small-caliber weapons. Everybody wanted hand cannons—big-bore automatics with sixteen-round magazines.

He took his flashlight and shined it around the area but didn’t see anything—no shell casings, no footprints, no dropped business cards from Murder, Inc. He looked again at the position of the body. Just like Hale had said: it was almost exactly half on the sidewalk—which Glazer was positive belonged to Arlington County—and half inside the park. Goddammit. It was going to be a real tussle to get the feds to take the case.

“Hi there.”

Glazer turned. A man was walking toward him, a handsome dark-haired guy in his early forties dressed in a blue suit, white shirt, no tie, holding an umbrella over his head.

“Sir, this is a crime scene,” Glazer said. “Get back behind the tape.” Glazer glared over at Hale, wondering why the damn rookie had let a civilian into the area. Then he found out.

The guy took a badge case out of the inside pocket of his suit coat and flipped it open. “Hopper, FBI,” he said. “I think this one’s ours.” He smiled at Glazer then, and he had a great smile—charming, disarming, all these even white teeth just gleaming in the dark. “I mean, I’d love to let you have it,” he said, “but my boss says we gotta take this one.”

What the hell?

“How did you know about the victim?” Glazer said.

“Beats me,” Hopper said. “They just told me to get my ass over here. One of our guys must have picked it up on the scanner and heard you folks talking about it. I don’t know. What difference does it make?”

The difference it made was that there was no way an FBI agent would have hustled over here at two in the morning to take over the case. Maybe when it was daylight, but not at two A.M.—and not for an apparent nobody like Paul Russo. And this agent. He wasn’t some low-level Louie; Glazer could tell just by looking at him. This guy had weight.

“The body’s on the sidewalk,” Glazer said. “My sidewalk.”

Hopper looked down at the body. “It’s half on the sidewalk. And the rule is—”

“Rule? What fuckin’ rule?”

“The rule is like football. Wherever the runner’s knee goes down is where they spot the ball. His knee went down in the park.”

“I’ve never heard of any—”

“Come on, Glazer. I’m tr—”

“How do you know my name?”

Irritation flicked across Hopper’s face. “They gave it to me when they called me. Probably got if off the scanner, too. Why are you giving me a hard time here? I’m doing you a favor. This is one less murder on Arlington’s books. It’s one less case you have to clear. You oughta be thanking me, not arguing with me.”

Glazer already knew he was going to lose this fight—and anybody looking at the scene, not knowing a single thing about criminal jurisdictions, would know he was going to lose it, too. In one corner you had this confident six-foot-two, handsome as Mel-fucking-Gibson federal movie star. In the other corner you had Jack Glazer: five-ten, a stocky, strong-looking guy, a guy tough enough to have maybe played linebacker for a small college team but not big enough or fast enough for a big-name school. It was the neighborhood mutt squaring off against the government’s Rin Tin Tin—and nobody would have put their money on the mutt.

But still—even knowing the feds were going to win this jurisdictional tug-of-war—this guy pissed him off. And something was seriously out of whack.

“Yeah, well, we’ll have to settle this later, when it’s daylight,” Glazer said, shifting his position slightly, blocking off Hopper’s path to the body. “I need to check with my boss. But for now—”

Glazer’s cell phone rang. He looked at the caller ID. What the hell?

“Glazer,” he said into his phone. He listened for a few seconds, said, “Yes, sir,” and hung up.

Glazer looked at Hopper for a moment and then slowly nodded his head. “That was my boss. He said this is your case.”