A Time to Lie by Simon Berthon
|A Time to Lie by Simon Berthon|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: A cracker of a political thriller that kept me reading late into the night. Highly recommended.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 384||Date: December 2020|
A workman has a nasty surprise when he pulls a package out of an excavation on a building site. It's wrapped in part of an old shower curtain and is a hand, severed above the wrist. It's been there for about twenty-five to thirty-five years.
Robin Sandford - generally known as Robbie - is Prime Minister. He's married to heiress Carol van Koon and they have two daughters, Becca and Bella. Sandford's determined to be a better type of politician: he wants a government that is not just practically good, but morally good. One of the ways he's planning on going about this is to ban arms sales to dubious regimes. Henry Morland-Cross, the Deputy Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, wishes that he'd been warned about this: it's easy to see that he wouldn't have been in agreement.
These days we all know that, in government, a Spad is a Special Adviser. We understand that they can be, well, a little weird. Morland-Cross's chief Spad is Jed Fowkes and there's a bit of a twist here: Fowkes and Sandford shared a flat back in the days when such economies were necessary for them and Fowkes has suggested to the PM that 'they' might be responsible for the body from which the hand has been severed. Back then Sandford suffered from panic attacks and blackouts and he honestly can't remember the incident Fowkes describes but there's a further problem. He's not certain about Fowkes' motives for telling him the story. When you're Prime Minister there are few people with whom you can share a story like this and Sandford calls on former journalist Joe Quine for help. He wants the story investigated.
If you're looking for a political thriller you'll struggle to get a better one than this: it's a cracker. You'll get right to the end of the book before you realise what a great creation the character of Robbie Sandford really is. He's a political animal with all the instincts required if you are to rise to the top of that particularly murky pool. We know that an aura of affability and bonhomie is mandatory (no - honestly - I haven't got anyone in particular in mind) but Sandford something to the 'nice man' image: he's an ethical conservative. He wants a better world and - amazingly - he's even prepared to have this story, with its suggestions of rape and murder which could be laid at his door, fully investigated. You gradually get the feeling that our Robbie is not quite as straightforward as you thought.
Joe Quine's damaged goods: he came second in a libel trial and it's cleaned him out. He knows that there's something dodgy about Quentin Deschevaux, the MP for East Somerset, who was the cause of his downfall. He's just taken a year out in Cornwall to write the book but now he's back in London looking into Sandford's problems with the help of his daughter's wife, Isla, who has the sort of job with the security services which doesn't get talked about.
The tension ramps up mercilessly. It wasn't even a case of 'just one more chapter': I didn't notice chapters or anything else. I just kept reading. The ending is particularly satisfying and it was with a sigh of pleasure that I put the book down. As I say: a cracker.
I'd like to thank the publishers for making a copy available to the Bookbag. It goes back a little while but we'd shelve Time to Lie next to Secret State by Chris Mullin. Sci-fi nerds will appreciate The Restoration Game by Ken MacLeod.
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