Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Ghost -- Robert Harris

I picked this to read on the plane to Bouchercon, mainly because I can't resist books about writers and not because I'm a fan of Harris' work. In fact, I picked up Pompeii to read on another plane trip and wasn't impressed. So it was a pleasant surprise to find that I enjoyed The Ghost quite a bit.

Here's the set-up: a ghost writer who's done books for fading rock stars and movie stars and such is asked to write the memoirs of a former English prime minister (who's a lot like Tony Blair). He takes the job even though the guy who'd originally signed on has died under mysterious circumstances.

The ghost (who's never named, as is appropriate for a ghost) tells the story in the first person. He flies to the U. S., where the former PM is staying, and looks at the manuscript the first writer had done. It's awful. The the PM is accused of assisting the U. S. in torture renditions during the Iraq unpleasantness. And the ghost begins to wonder if there are things he's not being told. He investigates. And what he finds . . . .

I like to think that Harris got the idea for this book when one day he was asking himself just exactly why Tony Blair had occasionally been called "Bush's poodle." I think Harris might said to himself, "I wonder why Blair seems to devoted to Bush and the Americans and their Iraq adventure." And then he might have said, "Hey, I know one possible answer!" So he wrote this book.

The ghost's narration is smooth, the details about ghost-writing are interesting, and the story speeds right along. A perfect airplane book. And the last paragraph, . . . . Well, I'm not telling, but I thought it was pretty clever, considering the title.

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