REVIEW: Head of State by Andrew Marr

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Book Number: N/A

Read this book for: political satire, dark humour, complex plot, multilayered thriller

Quick Review: A highly appropriate book for the recent UK referendum, and an incredibly fun, surprisingly funny, and satisfyingly complex thriller. A must-read, particularly if you have even a passing interest in politics or British history.


It’s 2017, and the UK is on the verge of the referendum to decide whether or not to remain part of the European Union. But when a crucial player in the vote threatens to twist the results with an unexpected event, a small group decides to stage one of the most difficult cover-ups in history – with the fate of the country hanging on its success.

HEAD OF STATE is written by Andrew Marr, one of the leading political commentators in the UK, and he combines his insider knowledge and political insight to wonderful effect in this story. It’s a fantastic read, a fun yet suspenseful thriller set in a political satire that is actually funny enough to make you laugh aloud at points.

The plot is one of the most compelling things about the novel. While there are some moments that may seem a little bit outlandish and far-fetched, everything works perfectly together. Not only that, but the events are believable enough because they bear an uncanny resemblance to the recent events of the UK Referendum (Brexit vote). Marr not only concocted a truly fascinating thriller, but also took an incredibly incisive look at the political landscape while doing so (read the novel – published 2014 – and see how many factors match up to recent events… it’s almost scary!). Politics aside, the plot combines all the best elements of murder, money and intrigue to create a fast-moving, wonderfully paced plot.

Part of what made the story so believable is that the novel is littered with details and insight about how Whitehall and Downing Street operate – from a network of tunnels to the day-to-day operations, it is incredibly satisfying to read and learn about all the little pieces that make the government tick. The details added to the atmosphere and really draw you in, so that you feel like you are part of the inner circle and actually involved in the conspiracy with the characters.

The characters themselves are also quite entertaining, although they tend toward caricature. I really enjoyed following some of even the most over-the-top ones; somehow, they still fit within the story, despite their larger-than-life personalities. Plus, characters like Ken Cooper, newspaper editor, are often darkly funny and cuttingly satirical. This lends an edge to the novel and a different twist to a standard thriller.

Definitely pick up HEAD OF STATE. Not only will you gain some insight into the current happenings in the UK, but you will learn things you never knew about the government, and enjoy a suspenseful and occasionally quite funny mystery at the same time!

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