Actually, the title is The Ghost Writer; I first noticed it in a movie my neighbor on a plane was watching and thought the visuals were pretty good. Which is relevant because the book turns out to be more or less perfect airline fluff: High velocity, a powerful hook into the real world, and very competent writing.

The premise is that a recently-exited British Prime Minister who looks and smells and sounds like Tony Blair gets in a bunch of trouble for having facilitated torture in the “War-on-Terror” context, just as his autobiography’s ghost writer turns up dead.

The point-of-view is the replacement ghost’s, and while there’s no actual violence, the sense of offscreen menace is satisfyingly high. Did I mention a real-world hook? Here it is: Why did Tony Blair’s government act wholly in support of Dubya’s clueless crusaderism?

This one got me because I thought a lot of Tony Blair, initially; I remember watching an extended interview with him as he closed in on his first big kill; the (admittedly lame) post-Thatcher Tories. I thought “Wow, this is a really smart guy”; the flashes of intellect and insight seemed to erupt from the TV screen. And then, Britain as bit player in the ardent stupidity of the Iraq campaign. Inexplicable.

The book has atmosphere, interesting people, and a powerful sense of you-are-there. The fact that justice for first-world torturers is a deeply implausible notion in the twenty-first century shouldn’t get in the way of your enjoying it.



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From: Anomaly UK (May 05 2012, at 00:01)

I've heard this so often, and I wonder where the people who say it were at the time. Blair was not "supporting" Bush's "crusaderism", he was encouraging it, driving it on, just as he had dragged Clinton into the same kind of action in Yugoslavia. It was the one, central thing that Blair believed in more than anything else. See for instance http://www.britishpoliticalspeech.org/speech-archive.htm?speech=279

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From: Gordon J Milne (May 05 2012, at 13:30)

The movie adaptation is pretty good too. Keeps you guessing right up to the end.

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From: Tony Fisk (May 06 2012, at 19:03)

It seems to be an ongoing problem: people who seem to possess real intelligence and insight into what's wrong with the existing political system get elected and... assimilated.

(Cue various alien mind control conspiracy theories... the reality has probably got more to do with the likes of Sir Humphrey Appleby!)

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From: alex waterhouse-hayward (May 07 2012, at 20:52)

The novel Ghost by Robert Harris is the basis for the film. What is interesting, particularly in the film, is how much of the mystery of the film is solved by a BMW SUV and its on-board GPS memory. The vehicle guides our hero protagonist to the beginning of the solution and explanation of the strange things that are happening to him. Any other book by Robert Harris is a book that I would recommend highly. In particular the novel Pompeii about a plumber (a real plumber) before the eruption of Vesuvius.

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