A political thriller? or a psychological thriller? Certainly, Robin Hawdon’s latest book, Number Ten (Downing Street) is classified as both. Number Ten explores the psychological and political drama that arises when rival forces assault the seat of government in Great Britain.
The Central Character
The central character, Paul Gunter, is a junior advisor to the Prime Minister, working in Number Ten. Terrorist bombs explode on several commuter trains around the country, and there is an attempt on the life of the Prime Minister himself.
The assaults are as mysterious as the origins of the aggressors themselves. Evidence shows that an insider at Number Ten is providing information to the assailants.
During the small hours of the night, Paul Gunter is arrested by MI5 and interrogated. The authorities are convinced that he is involved in the conspiracy.
The story progresses to being both a complex political thriller and psychological thriller.
A True Political Thriller
The evidence against Paul seems convincing. His past seems to establish his motives. Compromising material is discovered on his cell phone and his computer. Large amounts of money are deposited in tax haven bank accounts. Added to this is the history of family opposition to government policies.
A strong conspiracy case against Paul seems powerful. However, his supposed motives are not believed by everyone. Especially not by his flatmate, John Forrester, nor by the Prime Minister himself.
However there are factions which have their reasons for implicating him. Notably an al Qaeda cell based in London, a Russian oligarch with political connections, and parties within Number Ten itself.
The political thriller theme builds, as the plot develops into the most baffling of novels. It is not only a psychological whodunit but also a commentary on modern times.
A Political Thriller and Romance?
Yet another factor comes in to play. Paul is highly attracted to a girl within Number Ten, Andrea Holt. Andrea is the Personal Assistant to the Cabinet Secretary, the most senior civil servant in the country.
Up until this point, she has been dismissive of his advances, and Paul is too diffident to push them further.
Now, however, he needs her. Andrea has access to vital information within Number Ten. She is also one of the few people he can trust. When he escapes from MI5’s clutches, Andrea is the one to whom he turns.
However, she is herself sceptical of his integrity and motives, and romance is a long way off.
Complications and Controversies
Complications arise because the government’s standing with the public is on a knife-edge. The Prime Minister, although respected by many for his innovative policies, has to get his controversial measures through Parliament. But in doing so, he may well lose the looming election. There is strong opposition within the political parties.
Controversies rage across the floor of the House of Commons, and within Number Ten itself, which adds to the powerful political thriller element.
Mystery and Fast-paced Action
After Paul is arrested, he is sent to Scotland Yard for interrogation. Along the way, his car and escorting police are ambushed, and he is released. But, by who? The strange circumstances of his escape are not clear. The various factions after him, all have mysterious motives.
The pace of the action grows as Paul races across the London cityscape, trying to avoid recapture and buy time to prove his innocence.
Apart from his political skills, Paul is a trained rugby player and knows how to give as good as he gets. However, rugby skills will do little for his aspirations for romance, nor for his political reputation.
His psychological state worsens as his predicament develops, and the mystery of his oppressors deepens.
A political thriller is not complete without the element of organised crime. Matters become further complicated by the discovery that a Russian oligarch, Igor Bravinski, is involved in the whole business.
His connections with the jihadists and other crime gangs are obscure, but Paul discovers that Igor himself has clandestine links within Number Ten. The mystery deepens.
It is only after a marathon series of events, during which both Paul and Andrea come close to losing their lives on several occasions, that the mysteries are finally exposed.
A political thriller or a psychological thriller? Either way, Number Ten is amongst those thriller novels that are genuinely described as page-turners.