It’s nice to be able to support a local publisher. Fairlight Books is based in Oxford, and Dirty Geese is being published under their Armillary Books imprint. Dirty Geese is a political thriller, set in the very near future. The Tories are in power, but the Whigs are now the main opposition and beginning to pose a threat.
It begins, however, with a death at the Department for Personal Information – the Minster’s PPS bringing his early morning coffee and muffin finds him slumped at his desk with a large hole in the back of his head, and an antique pistol underneath.
Cut to Henri Lauvaux, a VP of Alcheminna Systems, who gets a call to tell him that Percy Dvořáček is dead…
He wondered who they might find to replace Dvořáček. His system suggested several names, some of which he knew, some of which he didn’t.
Yes, our first hint that Big Tech is going to have a role to play in this novel – as the baddie of course. Cut to the Prime Minister, who is discussing the death and the replacement with Esme Kanha, his Chief Whip. Ewan MacLellan has selected Harry Colbey, their wives know each other, and the PM thinks Harry is dull. Just the man to do as he is told, and get the private information bill, that Dvořáček had fiddled with, through parliament.
The PM is pompous, old school yet savvy, and obviously on the make somehow. Kanha is no longer really a supporter of him, but must bide her time to be promoted out of the Whips office. Little does the PM know that Colbey is just too honest, and when he discovers why Dvořáček tried to get the bill changed, he has to carry on the work. He will find an ally in Kanha in due course, once she finds out the that PM is up to his neck in it.
It’s difficult to make a political thriller that is actually about politics, and not just set in the world of politics, work. Admittedly, the suicide – or was it murder? – at the beginning does help in the thriller stakes. As does the new work of high tech that these politicians are now working in; not for nothing is the novel prefaced with the maxim quis custodiet ipsos custodes, who watches the watchers. Yes, smart devices are listening in, delivery drones loom at your window and more. The stakes couldn’t be higher for Colbey and Kanha, who make an unlikely duo and Gilmond uses them to show us a lot about how politics works: of getting bills passed, the role of the whips, what happens when the Division Bell rings etc, without ramming it down our throats, that’s a real achievement. I did feel that the PM’s dialogue tended towards the cheesy, but that is a small quibble in a very enjoyable novel, that was surprisingly fast moving for such a dry subject.
Source: Review copy – thank you! Lou Gilmond, Dirty Geese, paperback original, 336 pages. BUY at Blackwell’s via my affiliate link.