Welcome to Murder by the Book's blog about what we've read recently. You can find our website at www.mbtb.com.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

The Bell Ringers, by Henry Porter ($14.95) (apa The Dying Light)

An Orwellian future may be closer than you think. Henry Porter has set his "Big Brother" epic in the "near future," but it is not an unrecognizable future. There are no flying cars or robot maids. Rather there are CCTVs everywhere and additional government monitoring of cars, IDs, credit cards, phone calls, and computers, among other susceptible paraphernalia of our day-to-day life. The near future is here you say? So says Henry Porter through his fable set in a Great Britain controlled by a power-mad prime minister and the unscrupulous head of an international security firm.

Our heroine is Kate Lockhart, a brilliant lawyer who has left a government spy job for a job with a big firm in New York. She is called back to England when a good friend and former lover dies and leaves her his cottage, his fortune, and a mystery. David Eyam (The man who cried "I am," get it?) was the former head of the Joint Intelligence Committee and was ignominiously ejected from his post and bargained into a rural retirement. He somehow has circumvented the massive spy machinery in Great Britain and wound up in Cartegena, Colombia. A tourist's video recording captures his death in a terrorist bomb explosion.

Although she had lost touch with Eyam, Kate thinks she knows him well enough to sense more than meets the eye in his precipitous departure from government. And who is following her? Why is David's estate lawyer so nervous? What does the untypical I-must-be-dead-if-you're-reading-this letter from Eyam mean? Clues and puzzles start dropping like autumn leaves, and Kate is not sure which side of the ensuing controversy she is on.

There are no talking barnyard animals in this book, but this is the successor to "1984." Its premise is that under the guise of ensuring safety from Britain's (and America's) greatest unseen enemies, a purported democracy has placed enormous powers, including suspension of due process of the many, in the hands of a few.

This is a horror story scarier than anything Stephen King has written, because its scenarios seem possible.

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