First, a confession. I have known Gillian Slovo for many years through our involvement in the Anti-Apartheid Movement. So you may wish to discount what I am saying. You should not do that. I do not post reviews of fiction on this blog if I do not like the book concerned. The title should give that away.
And I did enjoy this book. In many ways it is a return to her early books, although it is a deeply political thriller. The scenario is one of riot, in which a number of interlocking stories unfold. And those stories very much mirror our current political circumstances. This is an indication of how prescient Gillian Slovo is as an author. The book was published earlier this year, and so it was written well before the referendum debacle began to unfold. What she has done is bring together a number of scandals, and fuse them into a credible story. This is a state of the nation story, and the UK is the crucible in which the story is told.
The starting point is the death of a mentally disturbed man while being arrested by the police in a condemned estate in one of the more deprived areas of London. Slovo uses the names Lovelace Estate and Rockham, but it is not difficult to work out the areas of London that she could be talking about. This leads to rioting of the kind that happened in Brixton and Broadwater Farm. And there have been plenty of examples of the last few years where communities have been galvanised by someone dying in the circumstances outlined in this book. If it had been written a little later, I am sure that the words Black Lives Matter would appear.
We meet some of the people who live on the Lovelace – Cathy, her daughter Lyndall, Pius, Banji, Jaydon and Mr Hashi and his mother – all of whom get caught up in one way or another in the chaos that descends on Rockham. We also meet a weak Prime Minister, who is struggling to see off a challenge to his leadership from a philandering Home Secretary, and a newly appointed Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police who has to watch his back because of an angry, vengeful rival. There is a scene reminiscent of Jack Straw handing his son over to the police for a misdemeanor.
But the biggest scandal is that of undercover police work, and how that corrodes the integrity, and affects the lives of others caught up in such deceit.
All of this is covered in the story, and none of the characters emerge unscathed In many ways, this is a story about the corrosive effect of corruption and how people, who are not corrupt, are affected in ways that they neither know about nor understand.
It is a book that should give you pause for thought. It may make you ashamed of the country that you live in. And that is to the good, if you decide to do something to change it.