Acts of Omission by Terry Stiastny
|Acts of Omission by Terry Stiastny|
|Reviewer: Sue Magee|
|Summary: It took me a little while to warm to the characters but when I did I found a very compelling story with a twist I wasn't expecting - along with a chilling view of the Establishment.|
|Buy? Yes||Borrow? Yes|
|Pages: 336||Date: July 2014|
|Publisher: John Murray|
|External links: Author's website|
In 1998 Mark Lucas was a recently-appointed minister in the Foreign Office, determined to do his best, but not yet long enough in the job to have abandoned his principles and beliefs. It's these that are tested when a disc containing the names of British informants to the Stasi has fallen into government hands. Understandably the Germans want the information back so that they can complete their opening up of the Stasi's archive. Lucas believes that the Germans should be accommodated on this: he was elected on a platform of transparency and openness - handing the information back seems right to him - but there are those within the government, both politicians and civil servants, who are determined that this should not happen.
What happened next should never have happened. Alex Rutherford was working in the intelligence services when he awoke one morning with a hangover. That wasn't the worst of it though - his laptop was missing and with it the only copy of the disc which he should never have taken out of the office. The laptop was retrieved, but not the disc, which was delivered to the newspaper where Anna Travers was a journalist. Her work on the disc was done in utmost secrecy, but it would destroy a lot of lives.
I'll confess that it took me a little time to warm to the characters in Acts of Omission. I never really did feel that I knew Anna Travers. She convinced me as a journalist, but there was a coldness, a calculation about her which meant that I really didn't care what became of her. The ex-Civil Servant in me was furious with Alex Rutherford: there are reasons why secret documents stay on the premises, and what he did was foolhardy. Then - gradually - I found that I cared about Mark Lucas. He genuinely believed in openness and transparency but he was also open to the advice from his father (who was German by birth) that knowledge can also be a burden. Given that years had gone by, should all the mess be stirred up again?
Terry Stiastny spent many years on BBC Radio 4 news programmes and her inside knowledge of the way that things really work comes through in the story. She captures the fact that blame falls where it's convenient and not necessarily where it's deserved, that the government looks after the establishment rather than the individuals within it - and then she delivers a twist at the end which puts everything into perspective. It's a couple of days since I finished reading the book and I keep wondering about Mark Lucas. That's the sign of a good story and Stiastny is going to be an author to watch. I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.
If this book appeals then we think that you might also enjoy The Madness of July by James Naughtie.
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