The Patriot Threat by Steve Berry
Published 2015, Minotaur Books
Yup, Steve Berry has done it again. He's taken some tidbit of history or politics or religion or economics, and turned it into a full-blown adventure action thriller!
Here's the scoop: What would happen to the US of A if it turns out the 16th Amendment, the one that allows for income tax, wasn't ratified properly and was therefore illegal? It's this premise that throws Harold Earl "Cotton" Malone into danger yet again. Retired Magellan Billet agent Cotton Malone can't stay out of the action, it seems, as his old boss Stephanie Nelle asks him to do some simple surveillance, as he's already close by to where the watchees need to be watched. But of course, it doesn't stay simple. Turns out, there's EVIDENCE that the 16th Amendment wasn't ratified correctly, stolen from the Treasury department's vaults, and it's out there in the world, ripe for the taking. And an estranged North Korean disowned heir to the "throne" wants that evidence. It will give him everything he needs to take down the US and China, restore his name to glory, and take the role of supreme leader of North Korea from his younger half-brother who got it after their father stripped the main antagonist of his dignity and reputation. He wants it back, and he'll do whatever it takes.
Luckily for the world, Cotton Malone is on the job.
I love the way that Berry has of taking something that could be really uninteresting (honestly, income taxes are awful boring, and I'm an accountant!!!) and finds a way to make it into a spy action adventure thriller that keeps you on the edge of your seat AND makes you want to travel the world to see all the places the characters get to go. But mostly, I love the way he posits scenarios that are based in reality and could very well happen. And honestly, there *are* conspiracy theorists out there who claim the 16th Amendment wasn't ever ratified correctly, and that our nation's income tax could be one of the greatest scams perpetrated in the history of the modern world.
Note: This is book TEN in a series. I'd recommend reading these in order if you plan on reading them. They *can* work on their own, but later books mention/spoil things from earlier ones in the series.