Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Sheldon's 1997 suspense thriller is a rapidly paced story featuring his signature web of lies, deception, and murder, albeit this novel is less complex than his earlier works. In The Best Laid Plans the two main characters, Leslie Stewart and Oliver Russell are engaged to be married when Oliver suddenly ditches Leslie and marries the daughter of a powerful U.S. Senator. This acts as an explosive trigger to Leslie's underlying distrust of men since her father abandoned her as a child and she becomes obsessed with getting revenge on Oliver, who becomes the President of the United States.
Leslie marries the wealthy owner of an Arizona newspaper, who passes away a few years into their marriage. Leslie takes control of the newspaper and ruthlessly acquires newspaper companies around the country and expands worldwide as she closely watches Oliver Russell's presidential campaign and election. Leslie's plan to use her media power to damage President Russell's reputation becomes reckless when the President is a murder suspect of a governor's 7 year old daughter. As details of the case leak, more people are murdered in connection to the crime, making the President an obvious target. However, Leslie's machinations are ruined when the Washington Tribune's famous foreign correspondent Dana Evans finds out who really murdered the governor's daughter.
The President appears to be guilty due to his well-documented habit of having extramarital affairs and Leslie's memory of his connection to a drug called Liquid Ecstasy. President Russell admits to FBI officials that on the night the governor's daughter was murdered he was sleeping with an Italian ambassador's wife, unbeknownst to Leslie who has written a sensational headline that the President is wanted for six murders.
In a heart-pounding chain of events Dana Evans is talking to the sister of a man who was murdered in connection to the governor's daughter's murder when she is cornered by a hit man. Dana calls the Washington Tribune station and asks a staff member to put her on live because her cameramen had already set up. The hit man is captured attempting to murder Dana and the sister on national television while Dana reveals who is behind the murders. Leslie, who owns the Washington Tribune and was at the station when the breaking report came on, is horrified that her story on President Russell's impending arrest for the murders is wrong. Unfortunately, it was too late for her to recall the paper with that headline story. The editor-in-chief of the Washington Tribune warned her not to print it without all the facts, but Leslie was so desperate to take down the President that she became the victim of her own maniacal revenge plan, while the President was forced to face the reality of his careless philandering.
By the end of the novel Dana Evans emerges as the true heroine. It seems that the point of Leslie and Oliver's relationship and twisted long-term connection were to provide Dana with a happy ending. Sidney Sheldon's plotting isn't as sharp in this book, there are some definite holes and unnecessary details, but he still crafts an interesting juxtaposition between Leslie and Dana, along with realistically redeeming Oliver Russell's character after he becomes a murder suspect.