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The Ghost: A Novelby Robert Harris
Synopses & Reviews
From the bestselling author of Fatherland and Imperium comes The Ghost, an extraordinarily auspicious thriller of power, politics, corruption, and murder. Dashing, captivating Adam Lang was Britain's longest serving — and most controversial — prime minister of the last half century, whose career ended in tatters after he sided with America in an unpopular war on terror. Now, after stepping down in disgrace, Lang is hiding out in wintry Martha's Vineyard to finish his much sought-after, potentially explosive memoir, for which he accepted one of history's largest cash advances. But the project runs aground when his ghostwriter suddenly and mysteriously disappears and later washes up, dead, on the island's deserted shore.
Enter our hero — Lang's new ghostwriter — cynical, mercenary, and quick with a line of deadpan humor. Accustomed to working with fading rock stars and minor celebrities, he jumps at the chance to be the new ghost of Adam Lang's memoirs, especially as it means a big payday. At once he flies to Lang's remote location in America to finish the book in the seclusion of a luxurious estate, but it doesn't take him long to realize he has made a fatal error in judgment.
The state of affairs is grim enough when the ghost begins to unearth the bone-chilling circumstances of his predecessor's death. And before long, he discovers that the ex-prime minister is not just a charismatic politician who made a few mistakes. He's a dark, tortured man with haunting secrets in his past — secrets with the power to alter world politics. Secrets with the power to kill.
Robert Harris isknown the world over as a master of his trade. The Ghost is yet another signature, brilliant tour de force that will compel, captivate, and excite readers to the very last shocking page.
"Displaying enviable versatility, Harris, who first achieved acclaim with his alternative history, Fatherland, and who more recently showed his mastery of the historical novel in Pompeii, hits one out of the park with this dark paranoid thriller. Former British prime minister Adam Lang (clearly modeled on Tony Blair) is up against a firm deadline to submit his memoirs to his publisher, and the project is dangerously derailed when his aide and collaborator, Michael McAra, perishes in a ferry accident off the coast of Martha's Vineyard. To salvage the book, a professional ghostwriter is hired to whip the manuscript into shape, but the unnamed writer soon finds that separating truth from fiction in Lang's recollections a challenge. The stakes rise when Lang is accused of war crimes for authorizing the abduction of suspected al-Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan, who then ended up in the CIA's merciless hands. As the new writer probes deeper, he uncovers evidence that his predecessor's death may have been a homicide. Harris nicely leavens his cynical tale with gallows humor, and even readers who anticipate the plot's final twist will admire the author's artistry in creating an intelligent page-turner that tackles serious issues." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"The narrator of 'The Ghost' is a professional ghostwriter whose name is never mentioned — ghosts don't rate names. After writing books for minor rock stars and aging actors, he is offered a big score. Adam Lang, a British prime minister who left office in disgrace after giving wholehearted support to an unpopular American war, has a $10 million book deal, but the project is in disarray. Lang's collaborator... Washington Post Book Review (read the entire Washington Post review) died mysteriously, the manuscript he left behind is unreadable and a deadline looms. Our hero is given an offer he can't refuse: $250,000 to rewrite the book in one month. He is soon off to Martha's Vineyard, where Lang and his wife are holed up in his American publisher's well-fortified mansion. At the outset, as the deal is being negotiated, Robert Harris satirizes the publishing game, which of course is like shooting fish in a puddle. There's the greedy publisher who, when his author is accused of war crimes, is overjoyed at the prospect of increased sales. And the tweedy, old-school editor who, under new corporate management, 'received his orders direct from the head of sales and marketing, a girl of about sixteen.' And of course the agent who, when you really need him, is vacationing in a rain forest on Fiji. Harris, also the author of 'Fatherland' and 'Imperium,' is clearly a student of the absurdities and indignities of the writing business. He's good on politics, too. Adam Lang is handsome, charismatic and unknowable. His sexy and acerbic wife, Ruth, is said to be the brains of the family — there are hints of the Macbeths in their union. Still, Lang is sleeping with his very efficient and very blond aide, Amelia Bly. Harris contemplates the political world and sees the seductive pleasures of the motorcades and private planes, but also the isolation of leaders, the back-stabbing that surrounds them, and all the muck underfoot. In one scene, as Lang and his entourage exit the Waldorf-Astoria: 'The shouts of the reporters, the fusillade of camera shutters, the rumble of the Harley-Davidsons — it was as if someone had rolled back the doors to hell.' Some people see politics that way; others see the gates of paradise. Harris' story darkens. Lang is accused of having illegally authorized British involvement in the CIA's abduction of four British citizens in Pakistan; one died under torture, and the others wound up in Guantanamo. He's charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court in the Hague. Rather than return home to face the charges, Lang stays in the United States, where he's safe because we don't recognize the ICC. Indeed, when he visits Washington he's hailed as a hero by Congress and the unnamed vice president. Meanwhile, our ghostwriter is delving into Lang's past and finding inconvenient facts that don't fit the official story. He's growing increasingly concerned, too, about the previous ghost's mysterious death. Can curiosity kill a ghost? Twice? All this is told with style and wit. Our narrator notices Lang 'looking at me quite differently now: it was as if some electric lightbulb marked "self-interest" had started to glow behind his eyes.' He's talking to Lang's wife and 'Over the rim of her glass, her dark eyes gave me one of her double-barreled-shotgun looks.' In an American airport: 'This is how they'll manage the next holocaust, I thought, as I shuffled forward in my stockinged feet: they'll simply issue us with air tickets and we'll do whatever we're told.' Flying into New York, seeing the empty space where the twin towers once rose: 'Strange how an absence can be a landmark. It was like a black hole, I thought: a tear in the cosmos. It could suck in anything — cities, countries, laws; it could certainly swallow me.' For all its fun, 'The Ghost' is finally about Guantanamo, rendition, waterboarding, official lies, a Halliburton-like conglomerate called Hallington and a CIA that's not always as inept as we think. Harris is asking at least three serious questions. First, in a conflict in which billions of dollars in cash are floating around the war zone, and more billions can be had from various kinds of corruption, should we be surprised if people who find out too much are murdered? Another question is why a popular British prime minister would commit political suicide by embracing an American war his people hate. The prime minister's own answer is that he believed with all his heart in the necessity of the war. That, however, isn't the answer Harris offers. It's not even close. Finally, he's asking if decent people have a chance against the modern embodiments of Big Brother. By the end of the novel, our nameless narrator recalls George Orwell's Winston at the close of '1984.' Neither ending can be called upbeat. Harris has managed to write a superior entertainment that is also an angry portrait of today's political reality. If you don't like the current war or the people who dreamed it up, you'll find nourishment in 'The Ghost.'" Reviewed by Patrick Anderson, whose e-mail address is mondaythrillers(at symbol)aol.com, Washington Post Book World (Copyright 2006 Washington Post Book World Service/Washington Post Writers Group)
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"Harris returns with an amusing, fast-paced thriller....Very slick, rather tense, sophisticated and amusing." Kirkus Reviews
"Harris scores again with this intriguing political thriller....As it turns out, there is more than one ghost, and the fast-paced narrative concludes with an unexpected twist. Expect considerable demand." Booklist
"Harris has managed to write a superior entertainment that is also an angry portrait of today's political reality. If you don't like the current war or the people who dreamed it up, you'll find nourishment in The Ghost." Patrick Anderson, The Washington Post Book World
"Even when he attacks extraordinary rendition and state-indulged torture, [Harris] maintains a taut, clear narrative line....Unusually for the genre, the novel is also nicely lubricated with humor." Jonathan Freedland, The New York Times Book Review
"[A] novel packed with seduction, power and manipulation....The Ghost is a stellar novel on many levels....Harris has written one of the most politically informed novels of the year." USA Today
"[T]he price of Mr. Harris's marketing wisdom is a trumped-up plot with a timely emphasis on terrorism....By the time The Ghost has introduced waterboarding, spies and a shadowy, Halliburton-like corporate entity, it has undergone a complete sea change from its promising early pages." Janet Maslin, The New York Times
"[Harris is] a consummate pro of the slick beach read. But here he imbues what could have been a formulaic thriller with propulsive dialog, the gloomy presence of the Vineyard in winter, and a deft stirring of a cauldron of contemporary woes." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
From the bestselling author and literary mind behind Imperium, Pompeii, and Fatherland comes this compelling, modern political thriller ripped from todays headlines.
About the Author
Robert Harris is the author of Pompeii, Enigma, and Fatherland. He has been a television correspondent with the BBC and a newspaper columnist for the London Sunday Times and The Daily Telegraph. His novels have sold more than ten million copies and been translated into thirty languages. He lives in Berkshire, England, with his wife and four children.
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