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power.’’ His aware­ness of what hap­pens to peo­ple who let this boiler room of power be­come their true home and his dis­taste for ide­ol­ogy in gen­eral make The Ghost a truly en­joy­able read.

When the ghost­writer’s left- tilt­ing girl­friend Kate ex­presses her dis­gust at the idea of his col­lab­o­ra­tion with Lang, our pro­tag­o­nist can­not be both­ered en­gag­ing with her vit­riol.

‘‘ Given a choice be­tween an evening of her smug left- wing moral­is­ing and the prospect of work­ing with a so- called war crim­i­nal, I pre­ferred the war crim­i­nal.’’ Even­tu­ally Kate leaves, be­com­ing en­gaged to some­one who ‘‘ spe­cialises in fly­ing briefly into the world’s worst trou­ble spots and fly­ing out again with mov­ing de­scrip­tions of hu­man suf­fer­ing, usu­ally his own’’.

In this novel filled with for­mer and present politi­cians, their fast- think­ing wives and fetch­ing as­sis­tants, pub­lish­ers, agents and lawyers, the ghost­writer is not so much the hooker with the heart of gold as gen­uinely the one char­ac­ter who is what he seems.

Il­lus­tra­tion: Tom Jel­lett

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