Acts of Omission

Written by Terry Stiastny

Review written by Adrian Magson

Adrian Magson is the author of 20 crime and spy thrillers, including the Harry Tate series, the Lucas Rocco series and the Marc Portman series. His latest books are ‘The Locker’ (Midnight Ink - Feb 2016) the first in a new thriller series, and ‘Hard Cover’ (Severn House - March 2016), the third of his Marc Portman novels.


Acts of Omission
JOHN MURRAY
RRP: £4.99 / £16.99
Released: July 17th 2014
Kindle / Hbk

Alex Rutherford, a young MI6 officer, wakes up one morning after a night out to discover that he has gained a blistering hangover… but lost his laptop computer.

Worse, the disk in the laptop contains files with the names of British informants for the STASI – the East German security service before the fall of the Berlin Wall and re-unification led to that organisation’s disbandment. And although Alex soon locates the laptop, the disk is no longer there.

And the German government wants it back.

Like all bad pennies, it eventually turns up. But it falls into the hands of young journalist Anna Travers, who fastens on it as a way of getting on in her career. What she doesn’t know or consider is that the information contained in the files will have far-reaching effects in the corridors of Westminster, as well as on the outside.

Enter Mark Lucas, newly-appointed foreign minister, keen to usher in a whole new wave of transparency and hand the disk back to Germany. Unfortunately, the establishment and his government colleagues are not so keen. In fact they’re dead against it.

But Lucas has a far deeper problem. His father, a respected Oxford academic, is a native of Germany during the Cold War years. Retreating into obscurity surrounded by his books has long been the older Lucas’s aim. But when Anna Travers sees a familiar-sounding name on the Stasi disk, Lucas senior’s  chances of remaining in obscurity are drastically reduced – and with it Mark Lucas’s political career.

Everybody, it seems, has a secret and an agenda. And the two are usually poles apart. Ministers and civil servants operate on different levels, often at odds, while ‘friends’ are anything but when it comes to choosing sides and getting – or remaining - on the jobs ladder.

A portrayal of life in politics seen from an insider’s viewpoint with the incisive assessment of a journalist who has worked in Berlin, Brussels and Westminster, ‘Acts of Omission’  is about as far removed from ‘Yes, Minister’, as it’s possible to get. Yet it contains scarily similar themes: the  in-fighting, plotting, rumour-mongering and double-speak that goes on in modern politics and which has the ability to both make and destroy careers in the nod of a head.

The voting public today, perhaps even more than it did in 1998, knows a great deal more about politics and political figures than it ever used to, but this novel lifts a fresh lid on the lengths civil servants and politicians will go to keep a secret – or uncover one in a way that benefits them most. It also highlights the mistakes, naiveté, errors of judgement and sometimes the sheer bad luck that dogs even the most well-intentioned of people in and around the corridors of power, and the sudden fall from grace that awaits them.

It also proves that some secrets never really go away.

A warning, perhaps, for the happy achievers in the recent Cabinet reshuffle.

A must-read for lovers of political thrillers.

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