Beyond the pleasure of voyeurism, though, Downie conveys the thrill and privilege of just being there. A White House volunteer in The Rules of the Game puts it this way: “It was fun, a game with its own unique rules, which sometimes included intimate relationships confined to the campaign, away from what insiders referred to as ‘real life.’”

In the end, Downie’s novel satisfies the myth of the reporter as a stubborn, insatiable, and often alienated guardian of democracy, one whose work can slip thrillingly into the territories of the detective or the spy. In his debut as a novelist, Downie retains both spirited optimism and enthusiasm for the ideals his profession requires. And readers may take private pleasure in trying to match the fiction with the all the facts surrounding its author’s impressive career.

If you'd like to get email from CJR writers and editors, add your email address to our newsletter roll and we'll be in touch.

Caroline H. Dworin is a writer in New York.