Review published on October 4, 2016.
A novel that fictionalises the day-to-day life of a British Home Secretary may not sound like everyone’s cup of tea, but The Knives is actually an extremely readable and thought-provoking book that I would recommend to anyone with even the slightest interest in the workings of Westminster. It is certainly not the cheeriest of reads as it lays out many of the problems our country faces today without necessarily offering any solutions, as well as showing us how honest and well-meaning people can be adversely affected by political life. It also left me wondering just how much could be achieved in government were it not for the time wasted in reacting to constant media pressure and putting the right ‘spin’ on every decision or action.
The Knives of the title are out in force for our ‘hero’, David Blaylock, both in his own department and in the wider world as we follow him through his dealings with colleagues, the police, MI5, his constituents and the Muslim community. I wouldn’t describe this book as a thriller as the moments of action are relatively few and far between (although there are a few, including a fairly shocking development at the end of the book) but there is plenty of tension as you find yourself gritting your teeth at the injustices of the world Blaylock inhabits. The book is by no means an advert for the political classes but it may make you think a little differently about the people in power and what a thankless task they face. The book was written before the Brexit vote and I was actually quite relieved that the beleaguered Home Secretary didn’t have that particular can of worms to contend with as well!
Cathy Boyle 4/4
The Knives by Richard T Kelly
Faber & Faber 0571296661 pbk August 2016