James Naughtie, via his Radio Four Today programme, has spent years prowling the corridors of Whitehall, sniffing out discord, examining motive and exposing double-dealing.
His love of dark politics conducted in low voices in secret nooks over finest brandy finds voice in this slow-burning spy thriller that owes much to the master himself, John Le Carre.
Set in the heat of the 1970s, which adds perspiration to the mix, it centres on foreign office minister Will Flemyng who has to set aside his Cabinet ambitions and return to a former trade – that of spy – when a mysterious death threatens to pour gravel in the smooth running of transatlantic diplomatic relations.
In that oblique, dispassionate form of to-and-fro so beloved of Le Carre’s Smiley, Naughtie teases revelations and hypocrisies without ever raising his voice or signposting their significance.
Indeed, the book is steep in that July heat where slow-and-steady gets there in the end.
The name Flemyng may draw hints of James Bond’s creator but those looking for adrenalin thrills will find themselves instead required to examine to eye flicks, sly nods and telling phrases for clues.
This is a book that requires investment as it occasionally gets caught up in its clever-cleverness but there is a relentless pull that is engaging and an insight that politicos will find compelling.
The Madness Of July
James Naughtie (Head Of Zeus)