April – a new month and I’m determined to try out some new authors rather than rely on old favourites. My kindle has also been shamefully neglected and usually only gets dusted down in advance of a plane trip. The trouble is, I like the feel of books and the e-reading experience is never completely going to do it for me. However, I downloaded The Loyal Servant by Eva Hudson because I liked the premise of the book – a political thriller set in the Department of Education involving the death of a politician.
Civil Servant Caroline Barber discovers Martin Fox, a junior minister and her former lover, dead in his office one evening. She had been called to his rooms after he had left a cryptic message on her voicemail which subsequently disappears. Unconvinced by the official explanation of suicide, Caroline pairs up with investigative journalist Angela Tate and soon both her job and family are at risk as secrets emerge that others wish to be covered up.
The book was the winner of the 2011 Lucy Cavendish Prize for fiction and I liked the fact that the two lead protagonists are strong women. Caroline, the lowly civil service is the best realised of the two, generally happy in her dull job but trying to juggle work and family pressures. Her family were particularly well portrayed, especially her militant mother protesting against various government measures. The journalist Angela Tate was also a strong character, her job continually under threat from cost-cutting measures and desperate to get that all important scoop.
The descriptions of the Department of Education were particularly strong and the writer clearly knows the world well with its bureaucracy that can be circumvented by those in the know. As the plot reached its climax I found it a little rushed and wanted the narrative to continue to the (hinted) conclusion. But overall it was a good read and it was nice to see a political thriller written by a woman and featuring two strong female leads.