The Whistleblower by Robert Peston

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The Whistleblower by Robert Peston

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Category: Thrillers
Rating: 3/5
Reviewer: Stephen Leach
Reviewed by Stephen Leach
Summary: An entertaining political thriller full of knowing winks to reality.
Buy? Maybe Borrow? Maybe
Pages: 400 Date: September 2021
Publisher: Zaffre
ISBN: 978-1838775247

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I'm not the first to point out how fitting it is for Robert Peston to write a political thriller, so I'll move on quickly – but this won't be winning any awards for originality. It's an interesting plot with a good pace, but it does very little to differentiate itself and I suspect before much time has passed I'll have forgotten a lot of it.

Taking place in the leadup to the 1997 General Election, political journalist Gil Peck is deep in the Westminster bubble, indulging in late-night drink- and drug-fuelled parties and always on the hunt for his next scoop. When his sister Clare, a high-ranking civil servant, is killed in a traffic accident, Gil starts to suspect her death wasn't entirely accidental, and begins to investigate what actually happened to her.

It's a decent premise, and Peston writes it well – Gil is a likeable and interesting character, and the caricatures of various politicians and influential figures he comes into contact with are broadly drawn enough that it's very obvious who's who. It's not top-class writing – some of the word choices are odd, and every description seemed to be bogged down by often excruciating detail; a decent editor should have caught some of these and tidied them up. And while it's wonderfully knowing about the seedier details of what goes on behind the curtain at Westminster there's a certain tiredness to it – none of what's discussed feels all that new, and I felt like I'd read the ideas in it before. Perhaps it's the latest victim of that very modern problem that political fiction and satire often feels quite hollow these days given the current state of British politics (though it's set in an era of British political history I'm personally quite interested in rather than the present day).

Still, The Whistleblower manages to be a decently engaging and entertaining read. I'm not sure I'd have picked it up were it written by anyone else, but for a first novel it's not a bad effort.

For further reading, I'd suggest An American Spy by Olen Steinhauer.

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