Today it is my turn on the BlogTour for A Secret Worth Killing For by Simon Berthon. It’s a story full of political intrigue and betrayal. (A Secret Worth Killing For was previously released under the title Woman of State)
About the Author
Simon Berthon has been described by The Daily Telegraph as a ‘formidable Second World War Historian’ for his reporting of events. He became the editor of BBC Northern Ireland’s current affairs programme Spotlight, moved to ITV’s investigative series World in Action where he won a Gold Hugo at the Chicago Film Festival, and went on to make the major historical series The Shape of the World which won a Gold Medal at the New York Film and Television Festival.
He became a founding partner of 3BM Television, seeing over a stream of high quality historical and investigative documentaries, many of which are award-winning.
His books, Allies at War: Churchill v Roosevelt v De Gaulle (Thistle, 2011) and Warlords (Thistle, 2006) offer detailed accounts of the mind games played by leaders in the war as well as examining their relationships, deals and decision making, all of which has been expertly researched and recounted intelligently.
His latest book, A Secret Worth Killing For (HQ, 2018), follows protagonist Maire Anne McCarthy, a one-time honey-trap for the IRA.
About the book
Secrets – 1991, Belfast. Maire Anne McCartney is recruited for a one-off IRA mission as a honey trap. She is told there will be no violence. But she has been lied to. To save herself, eighteen-year-old Maire must flee across the border alone, and start a new life.
State – Present day, London. Human rights lawyer Anne-Marie Gallagher is appointed Minister of State for Security and Immigration. At the same time, the police in Belfast receive an anonymous tip-off. The password is verified from the Troubles – and the co-ordinates lead DCI Jon Carne to a field. And a body.
Betrayal – The new Minister receives a message and realises that the new life she has crafted is at risk of being uncovered. And when Carne’s investigation brings Anne- Marie to his attention, she must decide where her allegiances lie…
Anne-Marie is an ambitious politician with quite a few skeletons in her closet. Not exactly unusual for a politician. Her secrets are buried all the way back in Ireland in the midst of the Troubles. The story moves from past to the present and back again, as some of those secrets begin to surface and threaten to destroy the new life and identity she has built for herself.
Although Anne-Marie is portrayed as the unsuspecting and innocent victim of political machinations and spy games, I find that perspective hard to swallow. The whole set-up of the honey-trap suggests at the very least a subconscious awareness of what would happen, especially considering her family and their involvement in the IRA.
The most interesting aspect of the story is the question of guilt. Anne-Marie doesn’t seem to feel as if she is complicit in any way. One could argue that her role in the honey-trap, which leads to the death of a man, is what hardens her and makes her less empathetic or does her family loyalty and politics play a bigger role in her life than she lets on?
To me Anne-Marie reads as a woman fully aware of her actions and the consequences of said actions. In a way her ambitions and her almost instinctive play for power after the successful election is indicative of her true nature and personality.
I also think it is a fairly common assumption that women are less likely to be ruthless leaders, killers and in positions of power, when it comes to crime or terrorism. A fatal mistake I might add. There is this stereotypical misconception that we are less likely to be cruel, brutal and able to make life and death decisions.
Regardless of the truth all of the above still applies to the situation, so I suppose in the end it is a question of whether everything is fair game when we are at war. If that is the case then why do we put war criminals on trial? Are some acts of murder deemed not to be a crime, depending on the circumstances, the conflict and the person who committed them? It’s food for thought at the very least.
Berthon makes an interesting political point and one about human rights with this story, regardless of whether it is intentional or not. It also speaks to the nature of politicians, the omnipotence of secret military and police operations, and human nature in general. The author takes a snapshot of the events during that violent period in our history and manages to place the blame where it belongs, which is firmly on both sides.
It’s a gripping venture into the world of politics, political skirmishes, clandestine operations and history. Ultimately it is also one about human nature, conscience and guilt, and betrayal. I think it is fair to say we all have some skeletons in our closet, some of us have just buried them deeper than other people.