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Acts of Omission [Hardcover]

Terry Stiastny
3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
RRP: 16.99
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Book Description

17 July 2014

In 1998 the gilt is starting to come off a new era.

Mark Lucas, the recently appointed foreign minister, is in a dilemma. A disk containing the names of British informants to the Stasi has ended up in the hands of the government. Elected on a platform of transparency, he faces resistance from the diplomatic service who don't want him to return it to the Germans, despite their entreaties.

Alex Rutherford, a young man working for the intelligence services, wakes up one morning with a hangover and a dawning realisation that his computer is lost and, with it, the only copy of that disk.

When the disk is delivered to the newspaper where journalist Anna Travers works, she finds herself unravelling not just a mystery, but many people's lives . . .

Acts of Omission plunges the reader into a virtuoso recreation of late-nineties Britain. Suspenseful, exquisitely constructed and thought-provokingly topical, it is a novel about what happens when state secrets become public, and the human cost of those secrets.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: John Murray (17 July 2014)
  • ISBN-10: 1444794280
  • ISBN-13: 978-1444794281
  • Product Dimensions: 24 x 16.2 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 88,666 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


An intriguing, compelling story that cuts across the decades and generations and brings the issues of the Cold War days right into present times (Simon Mawer)

Stiastny is an ex-BBC political reporter and she guides us around the newsroom, Whitehall and Parliament with an insider's eye and effortlessly clear, precise prose. She is particularly good on the great games of Westminster, and on the language of journalese . . . A beautifully crafted story (

Intelligent, gripping and convincing. Terry Stiastny displays a real grasp of the art of mystery writing, as well as an ability to evoke the particular atmosphere of the post-communist era and the secret dealings of the British establishment. I loved it (Henry Porter)

An author to watch (Bookbag)

Book Description

Every country has its secrets. So does every family.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Clever and well-written 16 May 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
`Acts of Omission' is a clever story about the complex relationship between politics, government and the press. Like the storyline itself, all the characters - without exception - are completely believable.

A slightly nave Minister of the Crown finds himself, against government policy, sympathising with the German authority's wish for the return of certain cold war Stasi records. Unfortunately a junior member of the Secret Service has - apparently negligently - managed to lose the only disc containing that information. So, when that disc finds its way into the hands of a daily paper it's inevitable that several careers, in both government and academia, are threatened.

Terry Stiastny has written a gripping story; it never falters and I found it extremely difficult to put down. And, even more impressive, it's the first book she's written.

I would, however, take just one issue with her: the story told at that formal enquiry - about a pub crawl, a taxi and a lost computer - is completely believable but jars with that final (last few pages) explanation of how the disc actually found its way into the hands of the press. I believe Ms Stiastny is sufficiently skilful to have given us a tiny hint, early on in the story, that the truth can sometimes be slightly different.

Perhaps the title of the book was intended to be an extremely subtle clue...?

'Acts of Omission' is, nevertheless, an excellent story that's well worth reading. It thoroughly deserves those five stars.

Read and enjoy.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Intelligent and engrossing 22 May 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I thought it was very well written with well-drawn and believable characters and a thorough and fascinating insight into the world of politics and the media when a "scandal" arises.

The first thing to say is that this isn't really a thriller, so don't expect a fast-paced espionage nail-biter. It is a study of the effects of a security leak (the now familiar "lost disc") and subsequent scandal on those involved. This includes the civil servant who was responsible for the loss, the newly appointed junior minister whose "responsibility" it is, how the press and Government (and some individuals within them) work in such times, and so on. There are a couple of unexpected developments but no Shocking Twists, Conspiracies Which Go Right To The Top or the like. It is just a very believable and - to me, anyway - gripping close-up account of the unfolding of the sort of thing we might read and hear about on the news from time to time.

Terry Stiastny is very well placed to know about all this, having been a distinguished political reporter for the BBC for many years. Ex-journalists don't always make good novelists by any means, but I think Stiasny has produced a very good novel here. She writes readable, unsensational prose and creates very plausible characters whom she views realistically but generally with a refreshingly unjaundiced eye. As a result, I found this as involving as a good many thrillers I have read.

A number of other reviewers here have lamented the lack of plot, but for me that's not the point, and I recommend this warmly as an intelligent and engrossing read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars When’s the story going to start? 18 May 2014
By Roman Clodia TOP 100 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Stiastny writes in an easy, fluent style and the government detail feels authentic – but I kept wanting to ask, when’s the plot going to get going? The truth is, it doesn’t. The blurb encompasses everything that happens in this book: the disc has already been lost before the first chapter starts, the names get leaked to the press, and for Mark Lucas, foreign minister, things get personal (of course) – and then the book ends.

I dithered between 2- and 3-stars, but there’s a quiet intelligence in the writing that makes 2-stars feel churlish. So, 3-stars then but this isn’t a book to choose if you want either action and excitement, or something akin to the narrative complexities and moral subtleties of le Carré.

Nice writing, nice evocation of the bureaucracy of government – but really, there’s very little story here.
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3.0 out of 5 stars Good story but not long lasting 21 July 2014
By Christian VINE VOICE
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
This is a well woven tale of different peoples whose lives are touched by the leaking of politically sensitive information. The payoff is well thought out and very realistic and the characters are written in a way that you want to invest in. The story looses a little in the way of score from me for two main reasons. Firstly, the story sometimes needs to be pushed along by the reader, this is not a page turner. Secondly, this is not a story that really fixed in my mind; when reviewing this a few weeks later I had to think hard about the story or characters. I hope that Terry keeps writing, there is promise of better things to come.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fact-based but fails to engage or convince 30 Jun 2014
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
By chance, Acts of Omission by Terry Stiastny is the third recent book purchase or acquisition in succession to be written by a former BBC reporter or correspondent. In this instance, she was based at times in Berlin, Brussels and Westminster and a degree of understanding of the respective political scenes and mechanisms would have been gained.

The story involves a government minister whose election success was largely dependant on a policy of openness and allowing access to knowledge and who somehow comes into possession of a disk whose contents are a compromising list of British informers for the former East German Stasi. The minister's conflict is that the British diplomatic services do not want the disk to be handed to the German government despite their requests. Although the concept of British informers working for an organisation like the Stasi may seem far-fetched, it has a factual basis and that is confirmed by the author; such a disk existed and it was not surrendered.

Matters are further complicated in that the disk had been entrusted to an agent who wakes up one morning with a hangover and the later realisation that his computer and the disk which was in it are both now missing. The disk later falls into the hands of a journalist whose investigative intentions create the beginnings of a highly complex situation and the knowledge that there will be many questions needing answers.

The story has been set in the late 90s, about a decade after the collapse of the former Soviet bloc and the reunification of Germany and takes place within Britain where it attempts to reflect the attitudes of the time. Will the minister stand by his declared principles or conversely act to limit any damage that the information on the disk may cause should it become public?
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Thoughtful suspense!
Absorbing political thriller. An intriguing tale, well told, when sensitive information involving another government goes missing and falls into the hands of national newspaper. Read more
Published 1 day ago by G. Wylie
5.0 out of 5 stars Drew me in immediately
The author's understated writing style drew me in immediately. She is adept at colouring in a character. Read more
Published 11 days ago by uncle barbar
4.0 out of 5 stars Conspiracy and Chaos Theory
The background of author Terry Stiastny as a news reporter covering politics shines through ‘Acts of Omission’. I wonder was she cynical when she left the BBC? Read more
Published 13 days ago by D. Elliott
3.0 out of 5 stars A good plot but poor story telling
This is a very frustrating book. There is a very good story lurking in here and it is obvious that Ms Stiastny knows what she is writing about, but her storytelling skills leave... Read more
Published 23 days ago by Mrs. K. A. P. Wright
4.0 out of 5 stars What is truth?
We all remember the arrival of New Labour, we all remember the Berlin Wall, we all remember the Stasi. But do we? Terry Stiastny posits the question, what if we got it wrong? Read more
Published 1 month ago by Donald Thompson
2.0 out of 5 stars Unimaginably dull
I thought I would be getting a spy thriller. It is not! Instead it is a painfully slow paced novel of the very uninteresting lives of a handful of uninspiring folk. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Mr. Ross Maynard
5.0 out of 5 stars Authentic and well-written
Right from the start 'Acts of Omission' felt authentic, accurately portraying the world of the media circus and political establishment at the start of the Blair era. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mondoro
2.0 out of 5 stars Good idea, badly executed
I found the book quite dull to read and the writing style didn't bring the story to life for me. I found it hard work to keep reading. Read more
Published 2 months ago by Al
5.0 out of 5 stars All is not what it seems
Knowing, as we do, the ingrained deviousness of the Stasi, it is easy to understand why the Germans in the late 90s would want any information concerning Stasi files to be returned... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Michael Watson
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