Archangel by Robert Harris

So I finished this book, but I’m going to avoid mentioning the country in which it is set because I don’t want their bots/trolls coming here and taking an interest, which is what happened the last time I mentioned The Country to the East.

You’ll have noticed that I have been reading a lot of Robert Harrises lately. There was a day on the Kindle store when a whole lot of them were 99p. And unlike the time I bought a load of Inspector Montalbano novels for 99p and then discovered that I didn’t enjoy them, I do enjoy a Harris.

I was discussing a different novel with someone the other day (Station Eleven, as it happens), and they said something along the lines of, “It’s good, but I wouldn’t consider it literature.” Which, coming from my background, I don’t even know where to start. So literature seekers beware, you might not consider a Robert Harris thriller to be Art or Literature, but there is a whole world of highly competent, readable novels out there, written by the kind of writers who seem to be able to reliably knock ’em out on an annual basis.

The premise of Archangel is that an underachieving historian, Christopher Kelso, stumbles across an extraordinary rumour. A former leader of The Belligerent Country to the East – arguably the worst monster in history – who conducted a reign of terror, murdering or starving millions through purges and famine, left behind a notebook. And Kelso meets someone who claims to know where it is.

Chasing this rumour around the capital city of The Belligerent Country to the East, Kelso finds himself, by turns, frustrated, tempted, threatened, followed, arrested, and so on. Eventually, he reluctantly joins up with an American (journalist? CIA?) and they find themselves in the Northern city of the title. This is a place of rusting submarine hulks, decommissioned weapons, and grim, endless winter. What do they find there? Well, that would be the Big Reveal. Needless to say, this being The Belligerent Warmongering Dictatorship to the East, they are followed. To be fair, the novel is set pre-Dictator, in the régime of the Drunken Galoot called Boris (not that one).

It’s a decent enough page turner, though it didn’t grab me by the throat. When the grabbing doesn’t happen, I find myself focusing on silly details, like the lack of sleep had by the protagonist, or the lack of food, drink, washing etc. These kind of mechanical details shouldn’t matter, and don’t, but you can’t control reception.

Anyway, decent. Of course, there’s a film TV mini series (Daniel Craig), just as there was for The Ghost (Pierce Brosnan). I should have a mini Films Based on Robert Harris Novels Starring Actors Who Have Played James Bond festival.

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