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by Henry Porter
Orion, August 2009
416 pages
12.99 GBP
ISBN: 0752874845

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Journalist Henry Porter has produced some hard-hitting thrillers in the past. This one is a curious mix of clumsy and downright chilling.

THE DYING LIGHT appears to be set in the near future. with a paranoid government, ID cards and security cameras everywhere. It focuses on the death of a former government spy, and the efforts of his friends to find out what really happened.

I know you want your reader hooked from the start, but there's too much to soon in THE DYING LIGHT. And Porter telegraphs at least two key outcomes very unsubtly. In fact it feels a bit like Star Trek and the bloke in the red shirt . . .

Porter also shows his hand for the main plot twist (which isn't too surprising when it comes along) a touch early, which means the middle of the book sags. But once the action moves to London, it's a race against the clock and the tension soars.

THE DYING LIGHT could do with some tightening it would have turned a damn good novel into an outstanding one. As it is, it has stuck in the memory long after I finished it. Apathetic voters let in the far right at the recent European elections so it's entirely believable that civil liberties could be (and are being) eroded in the same way.

The characterisation is a bit hit-and-miss. Kate Lockhart, the friend and former colleague summoned back from America and tasked with finding out what happened to David Eyam, isn't that well drawn. Some of the lesser roles fare better, including mathematician Darsh Darshan.

Most chilling of all, though, is the Prime Minister, John Temple, whose justification is that the public must be protected from themselves as they don't know what they want or need. And the book is a salutary warning of what happens when big business and politics end up in bed together.

I'm sure some will think Porter to be paranoid. The rest of us will feel it's terrifyingly plausible.

Reviewed by Sharon Wheeler, December 2009

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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