four-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
33-Mar-Apr-2008
user_rating: 
0

A-The GhostWhen British aide Mike McAra mysteriously drowns while composing the autobiography of former British Prime Minister Adam Lang (a thinly veiled Tony Blair), a professional ghostwriter is hired to rescue the manuscript and finish the book. "The Ghost" joins the charismatic statesman, his beautiful wife, and his young mistress at his publisher’s mansion in Martha’s Vineyard. But soon Lang is publicly accused of using British special forces to capture suspected terrorists and hand them over to the CIA for torture. With scandals brewing and his deadline looming, the ghostwriter suspects that McAra stumbled on a secret that someone was willing to kill for—someone who would not hesitate to kill again.
Simon & Schuster. 352 pages. $26. ISBN: 1416551816

Oregonian 4 of 5 Stars
"To steer his Ghost in the right direction, Harris stuffs him into McAra’s rental car, the satellite navigation system of which is still programmed with the directions to the isolated residence of a retired CIA officer. … A reader can deal with those contrivances, however, when his tour guide has such command of British sycophants and the literary landscape." Steve Duin

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 4 of 5 Stars
"From the first paragraph, Harris’ novel tugs the reader on through a thriller blessedly short on shoot-’em-up and long on character nuance, dead-on media satire and the damned-either-way consequences of wielding power in the murky wake of 9/11. … 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." Peter B. King

Rocky Mountain News 4 of 5 Stars
"[Harris’s] latest is a stunning foray into contemporary politics, a skillfully crafted look at the War on Terror. … The Ghost is an absolute page-turner, filled with events even more terrifying because they correspond to today’s headlines." Ashley Simpson Shires

Washington Post 4 of 5 Stars
"For all its fun, The Ghost is finally about Guantanamo, rendition, waterboarding, official lies, a Halliburton-life conglomerate called Hallington and a CIA that’s not always as inept as we think. … Harris has managed to write a superior entertainment that is also an angry portrait of today’s political reality." Patrick Anderson

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The plot is unfussy and perhaps too linear for those thriller readers fond of pyrotechnics, but it unfolds with clarity and panache—and with a classy twist on the very last page. … The denouement certainly ensures that The Ghost works as a thriller, but it reduces somewhat the novel’s power as a political critique." Jonathan Freedland

New York Times 2.5 of 5 Stars
"Terrorism is a real factor in The Ghost, if only because Mr. Harris … is sufficiently formulaic and commercial to know that his story needs pretexts for action as well as caustic prose. … It degenerates into a commonplace mystery, a book that its protagonist might have held in contempt when his safety and detachment were still intact." Janet Maslin

Critical Summary

Known for Fatherland (1992), Pompeii ( 4 of 5 Stars Selection Mar/Apr 2004), and Imperium ( 3 of 5 Stars Jan/Feb 2007), novelist Robert Harris opens his latest work with a derisive account of the publishing business. From there, it quickly gains momentum, merging a shrewd indictment of the war in Iraq with a literate, page-turning thriller. Harris, who was once a friend of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, offers a withering, barely disguised attack on Blair’s policies and his collusion with the United States in the Middle East. Some critics felt that the fictional backdrop weakened the political invective. Other complaints included some stock characters, formulaic plot points, and far-fetched twists, but most critics dismissed these as trivial and agreed with USA Today that Harris has produced "one of the most politically informed novels of the year."