by Richard T. Kelly
Faber and Faber
Richard T. Kelly is a jack of all trades – journalist, television presenter, playwright and novelist. His new work of fiction is the sort of epic political thriller that filled bookstores a couple of decades ago: think Robert Harris with a splash of Tom Wolfe and you’re not far off. Its hero is David Blaylock. Raised in a working-class northern England city, he joins the army and fights in Bosnia. That conflict (“Crusaders, uh?” he is asked by an Afghan fighter) uniquely prepares him for his next career: he rises to the post of home secretary in the British government. Kelly makes clear, however, that politics for Blaylock is yet another war: “Up and at ’em. Fight the losing battle,” he thinks as he jogs the streets of London. The battles are global (an ever-increasing terrorist threat, anger surrounding immigration) and local (the never-ending political machinations that attend such a high-profile job). Personal issues are no less fraught: the trauma of his army service, an ex-wife he still loves. No wonder Blaylock complains of having one bad day after another. The Knives rings bells on almost every page: anyone curious about Brexit might want to read about the “Free Briton Brigade”. The end is a shocker and, tragically, only too believable.