Cover Image: A Time to Lie

A Time to Lie

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A workman has a nasty surprise when he pulls a package out of an excavation on a building site. It's wrapped in part of an old shower curtain and is a hand, severed above the wrist. It's been there for about twenty-five to thirty-five years.

Robin Sandford - generally known as Robbie - is Prime Minister. He's married to heiress Carol van Koon and they have two daughters, Becca and Bella. Sandford's determined to be a better type of politician: he wants a government that is not just practically good, but morally good. One of the ways he's planning on going about this is to ban arms sales to dubious regimes. Henry Morland-Cross, the Deputy Prime Minister and Chancellor of the Exchequer, wishes that he'd been warned about this: it's easy to see that he wouldn't have been in agreement.

These days we all know that, in government, a Spad is a Special Adviser. We understand that they can be, well, a little weird. Morland-Cross's chief Spad is Jed Fowkes and there's a bit of a twist here: Fowkes and Sandford shared a flat back in the days when such economies were necessary for them and Fowkes has suggested to the PM that 'they' might be responsible for the body from which the hand has been severed. Back then Sandford suffered from panic attacks and blackouts and he honestly can't remember the incident Fowkes describes but there's a further problem. He's not certain about Fowkes' motives for telling him the story. When you're Prime Minister there are few people with whom you can share a story like this and Sandford calls on former journalist Joe Quine for help. He wants the story investigated.

If you're looking for a political thriller you'll struggle to get a better one than this: it's a cracker. You'll get right to the end of the book before you realise what a great creation the character of Robbie Sandford really is. He's a political animal with all the instincts required if you are to rise to the top of that particularly murky pool. We know that an aura of affability and bonhomie is mandatory (no - honestly - I haven't got anyone in particular in mind) but Sandford something to the 'nice man' image: he's an ethical conservative. He wants a better world and - amazingly - he's even prepared to have this story, with its suggestions of rape and murder which could be laid at his door, fully investigated. You gradually get the feeling that our Robbie is not quite as straightforward as you thought.

Joe Quine's damaged goods: he came second in a libel trial and it's cleaned him out. He knows that there's something dodgy about Quentin Deschevaux, the MP for East Somerset, who was the cause of his downfall. He's just taken a year out in Cornwall to write the book but now he's back in London looking into Sandford's problems with the help of his daughter's wife, Isla, who has the sort of job with the security services which doesn't get talked about.

The tension ramps up mercilessly. It wasn't even a case of 'just one more chapter': I didn't notice chapters or anything else. I just kept reading. The ending is particularly satisfying and it was with a sigh of pleasure that I put the book down. As I say: a cracker.
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A topical and intriguing book, which captivated my political scepticism and my love of thrillers associated with the machinations of UK government.b
Simon developed a tortuous storyline flitting between plots and scenarios but managed to bring them all together rather well. 
I really had a affiliation with the central character Quine.  He acted as imagined with insight into his industry and government. 

I was not as convinced with Sandford, the Prime Minister. His character blew hot and cold between a hard nosed grafter who got to the top through meeting all the required challenges of becoming leader and a likeable man, who somehow through luck in marriage managed to just float to the top.  He was portrayed as neither a decisive strong leader or a good people manager who was able to use a team to facilitate his success. He appeared as a loner, with hidden failures that might come to the surface. I couldn't get comfortable with Sandford. 

Enjoyable book for a quiet time in winter away from festivities.
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Simon Berthon writes a exciting and dark political espionage thriller that is set in London, within the heart of the British government and the Tory Prime Minister, Robin Sands. The Tories are a divided party after a Brexit referendum, won in 2016 with the Leave Campaign led by the arch right winger and populist Quentin Deschevaux. Sands states his intent to make the arms industry act move in a more moral direction and clean up its act, a move popular with the electorate but viewed with alarm by large parts of his party and the industry. Earlier in his career, Sandford had shared a flat with banker Mikey Miller, and Special Advisor (SPAD), Jed Fowkes, currently working for the Chancellor, Henry Morland-Cross. It was a time of wild parties and women, but a period in which Sandford suffered from numerous blackouts, a past that has now come back to haunt him.

A human hand has been unearthed that is to wreck the PM's life, Fowkes re-enters his life after a long absence, claiming the hand belongs to a young Hungarian woman that Sandford had killed, and Fowkes had covered up for him. Sandford has no memory of this, but is reluctant to take Fowkes word for this, he is not a violent man and this seems an unlikely act for him to have committed. However, doubts fester in his mind, and driven by his need to know the truth, he turns to disgraced ex-journalist Joseph Quine, a man he trusts and is close to. Quine has lived as a recluse, writing a book of the events that left him penniless and which destroyed his career after the collapse of a court case in which his informant had retracted his testimony after being got at by an opaque organisation, International Personnel and Resource Management, operating in conflict ridden parts of the world.

Quine finds himself in grave danger as under the guise of writing a biography of Sandford, he investigates Sandford's past and key figures from it, getting help below the radar from the intelligence services. Berthon writes a fast paced and well plotted espionage thriller, with great characters, that includes murder at the highest levels, a story of ruthless and powerful forces determined to thwart democracy, treachery, political chicanery and manipulation. This is a great read which reflects many of our contemporary political realities, tense, full of suspense, with a PM fighting for his political career, with twist after twist. Many thanks to HQ for an ARC.
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A time to lie.
A good old fashioned political thriller, that is at times, more interesting and relevant than current times! 
A Prime Minister with a guilty secret, that he cannot remember, is being blackmailed by Jed Fowkes, his SPAD, ( special political advisor) and close friend, from when they were both single and shared a flat together. 
The body of a young girl has been found and it appears that PM Robin Sandford, may have known her and may have been involved in her death. Robin seeks the help of a discredited journalist to help in finding out the truth, as he doesn’t feel he can trust any of his cabinet colleagues. 
I spent most of this book thinking of the BBC series, Yes Prime Minister, and the expression, ‘The ship of State is the only ship that leaks from the top’. It was amusing to try and guess which political figure the PM was based upon!  
I loved the characters of Joe Quine and his landlady, Mrs. T , they had an immediate rapport, that may hopefully be explored further if other books in the same vein appear. There were some lovely twists and turns in the reading of this novel, but , what stands out is the fact that most MPs come across as self serving, conniving, gravy train individuals, that couldn’t keep a secret to save their lives, which we see demonstrated on a daily basis during this Coronavirus pandemic, there appears to be no loyalty to party or leader, they appear to be in thrall to the press. In that aspect, this novel has got it absolutely right!  
I have rated this as a four star read, most enjoyable and relevant in these crazy times.
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First book I have read by Simon Berthon and will not be the last.

The British Prime Minister, Robin Sandford, doesn't know what he is politically and is about to drop a controversial speech which is making some of his party and colleagues very unhappy.

Along comes a special advisor (who has actually known Robin for years as they shared at house during university) with a blackmail threat he has received which he says involves a cover up he did years ago, on behalf of the PM, while they were all still students. What will he do and who can he turn to for help?

This was an interesting read, didn't show politicians in the best of light (do they need help with that!?), and kept you interested.

The end was probably a little unsurprising but still enjoyed the book

Recommended
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You do not see many political spy novels at the moment  as they seem to have gone out of fashion a little. This book may help to change that. The plot moves along well and has enough twists to keep you interested. The final twist was not really a surprise.

Thank you to NetGalley and HQ for the advance copy of this book
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I really enjoyed this almost old fashioned spy story. The British prime minister is under threat due to activities in his past and action must be taken. The story is hidden underneath very normal everyday activities but the threat appears real and present. I was able to engage and like most of the main characters, although the PM felt a bit feeble. It seemed that this was necessary to enable his specially recruited team to take action on his behalf.
The unraveling towards the end provides an interesting reveal -- but the final twist was not a surprise.
Recommended
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From the hook, to the entrée, one couldn't describe A Time to Lie by Simon Berthon as 'blistering'. However, it did build nicely in pace and intrigue. Giving an insight to power politics, the who, how and when. Strangely, I couldn't relieve myself of the odd image from Yes, Minister. The characters lacked a little depth and perhaps the plot lacked a degree of subtlety too, however it was a jolly good read and I throroughly enjoyed it. I'm giving Simon Berthon a four star review to spur him on to another novel, hopefully in a similar political setting, maybe having one of the whips spill the beans over a few of the members peccadillos?
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A Time to Lie is the first book by Simon Berthon which I have read and hopefully it won’t be the last one.

This book is well plotted; extremely well written and excellently paced with a number of twists and turns that kept me intrigued throughout as I turned the pages

Definitely recommended
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OMG what a fantastic book. I haven’t read anything  by Simon before but I’ll certainly read more. It kept me so gripped I was awake at 2 in the morning wanting to know what was going to happen. The words flowed so easily and I loved the way the characters developed. And the Prime Minister isn’t all he’s made out to be! It’s so true of today. I loved it. Mr Q and Mrs T‘S relationship was a joy to behold. 
And the twists!  Just when we thought we knew who the body was it turned out not to be. 
A masterful story. I both wanted it to end and not to end. I loved it. More please!
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