Wednesday, 30 December 2015


I somehow missed The Accident first time round, but I'm glad I caught up with the paperback on the rebound. It's a clever novel built around an anonymous manuscript that outs a covered-up early crime by a media tycoon, and a history of criminal cooperation by elements (as they say) of the intelligence community in helping him to his position of power. Think of Henry Luce crossed with Rupert Murdoch, and a bit of Ted Turner or Sumner Redstone.

What makes the book so clever is that the story revolves around the world of publishing, and the way the efforts of the rogue intelligence agent who's out to stop the book's publication interweave with the efforts of those trying to publish it. Portraying the publishing business as every bit as ruthlessly backstabbing, if somewhat less lethal, than the spying world is a brilliant conceit which keeps the story moving even when the deus ex machina workings of Hayden Gray, the CIA officer with his personal profitable agenda.

Gray is a quintessential 'old boy', the kind of men recruited by the OSS and early CIA in slavish imitation of the British (and look where that got the Brits!) and this creates an added clash of cultures with both the publishing world and with Charlie Wolfe, the not-so-subtly named media tycoon. And what makes it work, in the end, is the twist, the unseen connection between the anonymous author (whose own abilities to outsmart the intelligence people have an element of deus ex machina about them) and the editor who starts out trying to publish the book. It's chilling and almost amusing at the same time, and just gripping enough to keep you going to an ending as clever as the set-up. That doesn't happen often.

The Accident by Chris Pavone
Faber & Faber, £7.99 ISBN 9780571298945

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