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3.9 out of 5 stars
The Ghost
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on 3 March 2008
This is the 2nd Robert Harris novel I've read, 'Archangel' being the first. 'The Ghost' is an excellent novel and holds your attention from beginning to end.

I see that some (New Labour?) reviewers are attempting to play down the similarities between Adam & Ruth Lang, and Tony & Cherie Blair. There is merit in either argument but it is certainly true that Harris, since publication of 'The Ghost', is now apparently deemed a 'non person' from all insider accounts coming from within the Blair Court - this after having being so close to the centre for so long.

Certainly, the similarities between Lang and Blair are striking. The playing to the cameras, the desire for an audience to believe in, and to justify his actions, and the overall persona, is Blair all over. Read a dialogue passage of Lang's, close your eyes and it's 'All things to all Men Tony' once again. Lang himself doesn't resort to a 'Death of Diana' performance but we are left in no doubt that there is certainly one beneath the surface.
Ruth Lang is a cold unattractive character. Again, your political views may well determine whether or not she is a reminder of Cherie Blair's ambition and general attitude. To my mind, there are certainly strong similarities.

Harris paints a convincing picture of Marthas Vineyard and is generally good on scenics throughout. All characters are well fleshed out and are generally believable. To slay one ghost, the spectre of Robin Cook does not stalk these pages. Since his death Cook has claimed a posthumous gravitas, one which his political and ministerial career frankly never merited - and the suggestion (not Harris's, I believe) that he is supposedly the important and influential Rycart character does not hold water.

All in all, an excellent novel and recommended.
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99 of 106 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 6 January 2008
Rarely these days does one come across a really good book that is also really well edited. "The Ghost" is just right: as in a good whodunnit there is almost nothing that is extraneous to the plot, but it is so page-turningly readable that you don't have time to put the pieces together before the last page hits you like a pick-axe. All you can do is sit dumbstruck and admire the writer's skill in taking you on such a ride.
The reviews of "The Ghost" seem to be split down the middle, with some readers sorely disappointed by Harris failing to live up to past efforts and other reviewers ecstatic at one of the best political thrillers in years. I'm firmly in the latter camp. I could hardly put it down, was riveted throughout and found the ending chilling. It's up there with John Le Carre's best, in my opinion.
But what really makes this story a masterpiece is the stylistic perfection that Harris has achieved. I cannot explain further without spoiling the book, so I will just say that this is an intelligent thriller that left me satisfied on several levels, and one of them was an appreciation for a piece of writing that really works. I do wonder if some of the disappointed reviewers didn't quite "get" the book.
I confess to having approached "The Ghost" rather warily. I'd heard that it was a thinly veiled attack on Tony Blair, who seemed a tediously easy target and in danger of becoming out of date. Also, I'd read two of Robert Harris' others (Fatherland and Archangel) and although I enjoyed them, I found the ending a tiny bit lame in both.
But "The Ghost" knocked my fears for six. It's true that the prime minister in this has some rather obvious similarities with Blair, who Harris apparently used to be pretty close to, but the book in no way relies on the Blair parallel for its success. And you certainly don't need to have a particular view of Blair to enjoy the story.
And my prejudice about Harris' ability to finish well was unjustified. This ties up the loose ends with a flourish and signs off with a touch of genius. It is surely the mark of a really top-notch thriller that you think you can sort of see how it will all fall into place but then the author pulls a rabbit from the hat at the very last moment.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
I loved Fatherland, liked Archangel, and, I have to confess, got thoroughly confused reading Enigma (although I did finish it). The Ghost comes somehwere in the middle. I enjoyed he first two thirds or so, but began to lose the plot - in every sense - towards the end. The basic idea is excellent; the 'ghost' who is employed to write the memoirs of the British ex-prime minister finds himself increasingly caught up in undercurrents of intrigue, and becomes torn between his duty to fulfill his remit (ie to write the book) and his increasing desire to solve the mystery which surrounds it. The characters are believable, and the plot ingenious, but towards the end, a bit too ingenious for this reader, and it left me with some unanswered questions. If you like Robert Harris, then you will probably enjoy this book. If you have only read Fatherland, then beware; this may disappoint.
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46 of 51 people found the following review helpful
on 18 February 2008
I didn't expect to like this half as much as I did - I have long thought of Robert Harris as airport fodder. I'm sorry, I now see that was unfair.

This isn't exactly literature but it's well plotted, well paced and well written. Its fictionalisation is often wafer-thin -- even the revelatory photograph of former prime minister "Adam Lang" is very much like a well-known picture of Tony Blair during his university days.

It's curious that someone so well entrenched within mainstream journalism is prepared to write a book about CIA conspiracies against the British Labour Party - I would have thought this stuff wasn't widely believed beyond the far left. But well done to Harris for writing such a plausible thriller set in this sort of world.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on 8 September 2010
With Roman Polanski's film adaptation out on BluRay in the near future and Tony Blair on the book signing circuit, I felt it was about time that I finally got around to reading my copy of Robert Harris' `The Ghost', a book that can be argued is based around the exploits of a former British PM. However, don't let this cloud your view of the book as it is really just a solid thriller that starts off with a slow burn, then gets a little farfetched towards the end. The book follows a professional ghost-writer as he is flown in to help finish off Adam Lang's Autobiography. Whilst there, the PM is charged with war crimes and the writer gets in over his head.

The strongest part of the book is not the action set pieces that cloud the end, but the interesting dynamics that make up the PM and his entourage. The PM's wife is at loggerheads with the PM's Personal secretary and these moments of tension are far more pronounced than anything that is revealed later about Lang's shady past. The book borders on the farcical towards the finale as the powerful plot point that should shake the reader actually leaves you questioning the entire book. Can a man become as successful as Lang if this revelation were true? Almost certainly not. The books attempt at being intellectual fiction is undermined and you are instead left with a silly, but fun, thriller.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
was given this as a present, and haven't seen the film version, so came to it completely cold.

Haven't read much Robert Harris either, though did enjoy Fatherland.

Found this book gripping right from the start. The quick pace and entertaining asides draw you in very quickly, and makes for a very enjoyable read.

Like any good thriller, you just want to keep reading, and I ended tearing through this at lightening pace. Found the hardest thing about the book was to constantly remind yourself that weren't reading about Tony Blair, as it really couldn't have been written to be any more like him.

However, despite the fact I really enjoyed the book, there was a bit of lightweight feel to it. A lot of the puzzles just seemed to fall into place, and the plot just seemed to run in a fairly straightforward way for a lot of the book.

In summary, highly entertaining, and well worth a read - just don't expect to be overly taxed by it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A well-narrated audiobook, I'd seen the Brosnan/McGregor film a few years ago, and knowing Fatherland, was interested to try another Robert Harris novel.

There is mystery, suspense and lots of politics, but also the interesting aspect of a work-in-progress memoir to enjoy. I liked this aspect most of all, seeing the writing process of a biography, here written by a former Prime Minister and a ghost writer, our narrator.

He is never named, which is appropriate to his status as 'ghost' to the rich and famous. Our unnamed ghostwriter is contacted and offered a huge sum to write the memoir of a Tony Blair-esque former leader, travelling to his private residence and working with him to put it together quickly for publication. He soon finds his feelings about the man are conflicted, and the allegations of war crimes may or may not reveal more to the man and his time in office that he'd ever have expected.

Some of the political talk had me switching off at times, but it was the head-to-head between the Ghost and Adam (the PM) that kept my interest. It does feel quite tense at times, and you don't know who to trust, who to believe, who to place your sympathy with.

The book ends differently to the film, which surprised me, and I quite liked the ending Harris wrote, but can understand the change to the filmed version.

A fairly engrossing political thriller, if at times a little TOO political. Quite a good choice for an audiobook, straightforward to listen to. Some excellent insight into ghostwriting and biographies.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 28 July 2012
For the most part, this is a story which will draw you in and keep your attention, but I felt that it petered out a bit towards the end.

I don't know why there is any discussion amongst readers about whether any parallels can be drawn between this fictional world and real world politics. The basis for the story is so blatantly obvious. Adam Lang is, beyond doubt, a parody of Tony Blair. Ruth is Cheri. And so on.

The story is narrated in the first person by the ghost writer who is commissioned to write the former prime minister's memoirs. The name of the ghost writer is never revealed, but he is a replacement for the original ghost, who had been Lang's aide and who had met an unfortunate end when he fell, or was pushed, from a ferry.

The ghost's escapade is fraught with danger. His greatest problem, and this is a great part of the book because it really stirred me up, is that he brings a lot of that peril upon himself by his foolish actions. I found myself having to exercise great self-restraint as I resisted the temptation to yell at the pages of my book, "No! Don't do that!", "Don't go there!", "Don't make that call!", "Don't send that email!, and so on. He's an intelligent man, but he can be so foolish.

There are a few major shocks, and there are a few incidents in the book which, I am sure, Harris intended to be shocking, but were entirely predictable.

As I indicated in my introduction, following the biggest twist of all towards the end of the book, it fades away and the last few pages are a bit disappointing when compared to the excitement that rolls through most of the story up to that point. It is easy to believe that most of the events described in The Ghost could really have happened.

All in all, this was a great read. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys thrillers, and I shall certainly bee reading more books by Robert Harris. My dilemma is whether to choose Fatherland or The Fear Index.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
A ghost writer is hired to help a former Prime Minister with his memoirs while he is holed up in America. The ex-Prime Minister's administration brought the UK into an unpopular "war against terror" to support the US and the Minister now stands accused of war crimes against terror suspects. Sound familiar? Except as the ghost writer goes deeper into the Minister's path he finds out murkier secrets along with a decades old conspiracy and that his predecessor died in mysterious circumstances...

I found this on holiday in the hotel's bookcase for guests to pick from and within 24 hours had devoured it. The pace is just right, it's well written, the characters are believable and Harris knows how to parcel out the action with the brooding menace of the situation. The character of Adam Lang (read: Tony Blair) was brilliantly realised and I enjoyed every moment he was in the book. Lang's wife Ruth was also portrayed brilliantly. Harris excellently set the scene for a showdown in the privileged landscape of Martha's Vineyard in winter while also giving a well formed idea of the ghost writer's profession.

The ending was just right too, that final twist coming out of the blue and ending on just the right note. I won't give it away. I thoroughly enjoyed it, much more so than when I first saw it 3 years ago and thought Harris was another trashy thriller "writer". I've never read Harris before but can definitely see myself reading more of him in the future. Fantastic quick read that was very absorbing and well written. Superb!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
TOP 50 REVIEWERon 3 October 2010
The best thrillers allow you to imagine that they could be real. This is the story of a ghostwriter (we never learn his name) who goes to work with former British PM Adam Lang on his memoirs, after the previous ghostwriter drowned in mysterious circumstances. Lang's character bears many similarities to Tony Blair, from his unpopularity after taking Britain into war through to his prickly wife. The Ghost flies to Lang's windswept and isolated base in wintry Martha's Vineyard. However as he starts to work with Lang, he gradually uncovers disturbing facts about his predecessor's disappearance and starts to fear for his own life.

The book starts slowly but from the start you feel unsettled and the tension cranks up steadily from there. It's a psychological, thinking person's thriller (think Hitchcock not Liman), that holds the suspense right up to the very last page. The narrator is a terrific and likable character, who also gives an interesting view into the life of a ghostwriter.

I read this after watching Roman Polanksi's excellent film The Ghost [DVD] [2010] (also written by Robert Harris). The film is very similar to the book, although the film's ending has been simplified.
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