Power Play by Gavin Esler

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Power Play by Gavin Esler

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Buy Power Play by Gavin Esler at Amazon.co.uk or Amazon.com

Category: General Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A page-turning political thriller from an author who has been a Washington insider. Recommended as a good holiday read.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 448 Date: August 2009
Publisher: Harper Collins Publishers Ltd
ISBN: 978-0007278091

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Most United States Vice-presidents seem to disappear once they're elected, becoming people without a real job to do. Not so Bobby Black. It had been something of a surprise when he and Theo Carr were elected as they'd been ten points behind in the polls just a short while before the election, but a suicide bomber on a plane in Manila changed all that. Once in power it was Black who dominated; bullying and pulling strings to get what he wanted and people even joked that it was the President who was a heartbeat away from the Presidency should anything happen to Black.

And something did happen to Black. The British Ambassador to Washington thought that he had found a way to repair the bad relationship between Black and the Prime Minister. He organised a trip to Scotland – from where Black's family had originated – and arranged that he would go grouse shooting, dine with the Queen and walk in the hills with the Prime Minister to sort out their differences. The grouse shoot was going well (if not for the grouse) when the fog descended. In moments Black disappeared and despite the best efforts of hundreds of people could not be found. For Ambassador Price it was the beginnings of a nightmare.

Most people will know Gavin Esler from Newsnight but he was the BBC's Washington Correspondent and it's his obvious knowledge of the way things work that lifts this book above the run of the mill. Having said that it's difficult to escape the feeling that you know who the characters are based on, particularly when you have a Vice-president who's been in a hunting incident which involved him shooting a friend. Ring any bells? Oh, and he has an association with a company called Warburton which is making big money in Iraq. Our Ambassador put me in mind of Sir Christopher Meyer. President Theo Carr mad me think of President Jimmy Carter – particularly as he has a wife called Rosa.

Some of the grey areas about how American politics really work have light shone into them. Nobody would have wanted to see Bobby Black as President – so he became Carr's insurance against impeachment. Speaker Betty Furedi would have been even worse as President, so Black's disappearance meant that it was imperative that he was found, declared dead or terminated so that a new Vice-President could be put in place. Missing – status unknown was something of a constitutional grey area which couldn't be allowed to continue particularly when the President's health wasn't quite what the public had been lead to believe.

It's always been thought that there is a 'special relationship' between the UK and the USA and Esler skilfully shows that it's not always that special and sometimes not even a relationship. For me though the most interesting part of this book was the illustration of how politicians use fear, to bring people into line or to hold the electorate close to them. When, too, is the use of torture not just admissible but even admirable?

Esler is best at the politics and the plotting. Some of the characters come off the page but others are two-dimensional. I was rooting for Alex Price, but the love interest – Dr Kristina Taft – was a little far-fetched and the sex uninspiring, but it's a good story that keeps you turning the pages. I read it in a couple of sessions on a slightly chilly Sunday and if you're looking for a light but well-written holiday read you could do a lot worse.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might also enjoy Deadly Sins by Nicholas Coleridge.

Buy Power Play by Gavin Esler at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Power Play by Gavin Esler at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Power Play by Gavin Esler at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Power Play by Gavin Esler at Amazon.com.

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