In Robert Harris’ thriller The Ghost the title character is actually a ghost writer, a person who writes another person’s book for them and is not openly acknowledged as the writer. This often happens with celebrity memoirs, as in this novel, but also where a famous person wants to be known for writing novels but can’t do it themselves or where writers are so successful that they need help to meet the demand for new volumes in an ongoing series. This book is quite informative about being a ghost writer although the narrator’s occupation is really used to tell a story about political conspiracies and spying.
I first discovered Robert Harris’ writing last year when I listened to Fatherland on audio. I was blown away by it and have read a number of his thrillers since including An Officer and a Spy which was one of last month’s historical novels for my 12 in 12 Challenge – you can find that review here. I also enjoyed his non-fiction book Selling Hitler about the affair of the fake Hitler diaries which was very well written.
The Ghost is a fast moving thriller and I read it avidly over a day and a half because I couldn’t put it down. It is based around the memoirs of an ex-British Prime Minister, very loosely based on Tony Blair. When his first ghost writer dies after apparently committing suicide by throwing himself off the ferry to Martha’s Vineyard, where the book is mostly set, a replacement is needed quickly. The aim is to rewrite the memoirs and get them published quickly, a plan which is accelerated when an ex-Cabinet colleague makes accusations of war crimes.
It quickly becomes apparent that being the ghost writer is not a safe occupation. Was the first incumbent in the post murdered ? What did he find out ? What is hidden in the memoirs ? Did the illegal rendition and torture of terrorist suspects take place and were they sanctioned ? The book moves quickly and secrets are revealed up to and including a thrilling ending. This is excellent action reading with good characterisation, plenty of mixed motives and people who may have done the wrong thing but for what they thought were pure motives. It was only as I came to the end of the book that I realised that, by skilful writing, the author had never revealed the name of our ghost writer or anything much about him – he is truly a ghost.
A cracking read. I truly enjoyed this book