cover image The Ghost

The Ghost

Robert Harris, . . Simon & Schuster, $26 (335pp) ISBN 978-1416551812

The Web is infinite, which is why we are so partial to our Web-exclusive reviews. We can cover noteworthy books that might have arrived late, might have slipped through the cracks, or were just one book too many for the limits of the real world. We're putting some of them in this issue to remind you how good our web reviews really are.

The Ghost Robert Harris . Simon & Schuster , $26 (352p) ISBN 978-1416551812

Displaying enviable versatility, Harris, who first achieved acclaim with his alternative history, Fatherland , and who more recently showed his mastery of the historical novel in Pompeii , hits one out of the park with this dark paranoid thriller. Former British prime minister Adam Lang (clearly modeled on Tony Blair) is up against a firm deadline to submit his memoirs to his publisher, and the project is dangerously derailed when his aide and collaborator, Michael McAra, perishes in a ferry accident off the coast of Martha's Vineyard. To salvage the book, a professional ghostwriter is hired to whip the manuscript into shape, but the unnamed writer soon finds that separating truth from fiction in Lang's recollections a challenge. The stakes rise when Lang is accused of war crimes for authorizing the abduction of suspected al-Qaeda terrorists in Pakistan, who then ended up in the CIA's merciless hands. As the new writer probes deeper, he uncovers evidence that his predecessor's death may have been a homicide. Harris nicely leavens his cynical tale with gallows humor, and even readers who anticipate the plot's final twist will admire the author's artistry in creating an intelligent page-turner that tackles serious issues. (Oct.)