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by Robert Harris
Hutchinson, September 2007
320 pages
18.99 GBP
ISBN: 0091796261

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Apparently this novel has been seen as a roman a clef, given that the author was formerly close to an eminent politician and, certainly, there are lots of references to happenings that occurred during Tony Blair's premiership. I felt a degree of frustration, whilst reading the book, that, despite my dual citizenship, I am not more au fait with British politics. Regardless, the key to this particular lock does not seem to be terribly complex.

Appropriately, given the nature of his profession, the ghostwriter, who pens his work in the first person, is not given a name, being addressed only as "darling" by his girlfriend and "man" by the former Prime Minister, Adam Lang, whose memoirs he is writing.

The author is not the first choice for the work. That man, McAra, met a messy end whilst travelling on the ferry to Martha's Vineyard, where Lang is currently domiciled. McAra was a member of Lang's staff and, as such had unparalleled access to the man and any secrets. It is only when things start threatening the ghostwriter that he begins to suspect that his predecessor might have been murdered.

The Ghost travels to Martha's Vineyard and, initially, is lodged in public accommodation but that circumstance changes not too far into the narrative.

As a thriller, the book works well. The nameless horror that stalks the ghost is beautifully evoked before being more or less identified. The ghost himself is very well drawn and I couldn't help but wonder if he, too, was a mirror for someone in Real Life.

Harris doesn't seem to like the people who run the publishing scene any more than he appreciates conniving politicians or the CIA, given the way he portrays their Important People.

The author is a columnist who has had, over the years, privileged access to politicians. It's not surprising, then, that the novel is both well-written and intelligent. The plot is well constructed although, to be fair, a lot of it could be seen almost to have built itself.

Although Harris has been careful not to name the party to which Lang belongs, I would think it reasonable to assume that if ever the author becomes close to a member of a party in the future, the chosen politician won't belong to Labour.

Reviewed by Denise Pickles, October 2007

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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