The Prime Minister’s Affair by Andrew Williams – Review

The Prime Minister's Affair Andrew Williams book review cover logo

By Sandra Callard

So tightly written it almost runs away with itself, and subsequently, the reader, The Prime Minister’s Affair is set in 1929 when memories of The Great War are fading, but a little guy in Germany is beginning to flex his muscles.

Great Britain’s Prime Minister is Ramsay MacDonald, a quiet, handsome and successful politician who has just won the first general election for the Labour Party. He is riding high when a late evening visitor brings an unforeseen problem in the shape of a woman he had an affair with a year or so back. She says she will show the press some very embarrassing love letters he wrote to her in a passion very unlike his usual staid and careful self, unless a large amount of money is given to her, and MacDonald can see his glorious win for the Labour party fragmenting before his eyes.

It is not in the Prime Minister’s nature to give in to blackmail but he soon realises he has no choice and the matter is quickly in the hands of the British Secret Service, which turns out to be not as biddable as he would like. His attempts at secrecy fail and the story becomes a knife edge thriller as it becomes clear that many parties are involved, all of whom have different agendas and are not too worried about how they will affect the Prime Minister.

From hereon the book negotiates the multiple and frightening ways of these various and brutal groups and individuals, who are either powerful and strong or weak and chaotic, who can put an end to the political life of Ramsay MacDonald. There is the hypnotic effect of power in some, who will stop at nothing to achieve it, and there is the power of money, which will wipe away anything in its path to attain their ultimate prize. There are also the remains of the rest who are as yet unknown.

“Compulsive and fast-moving”

The Prime Minister's Affair Andrew Williams book review coverThe fight for power by the trapping of Kristina Forster and the her pack of letters is a dirty and brutal affair and her life is in danger, but the efforts of each of the parties involved in this situation are presented very clearly and quite bleakly. The author brings the stamp of authority and validity to his writing which makes for fascinating, if somewhat uncomfortable, reading.

Andrew Williams has a clear and concise way of writing which makes for an easy and swift understanding of the plot. There is a liberal sprinkling of scenes of violence throughout the book, but it is never gratuitous. It is described quickly and sharply which gives a livid and unstoppable lurch to the stomach, but which is soon forgotten in the compulsive and fast moving story. This novel is an exciting and historical read, and brings to life a set of circumstances taking place in a time not so long ago, and which makes the reader aware that the public will only ever know a fraction of the real politics that unfold around us.

This is a fast moving novel which stems mostly on the one man who seems to be trying to reach an acceptable solution, and how he meets brutality and fear along the way. We come into contact with Sir Edward Mosley, one time darling of the hungry and the downtrodden, who then toyed with fascism and became a political pariah. The horror of the Depression when children died of hunger as polititions wavered is toyed with and gives us a whole new view of those times as they crept slowly towards the Second World War.

A fine and unflinching historical fiction thriller.

‘The Prime Minister’s Affair’ by Andrew Williams is published by Hodder & Stoughton, £20 hardback


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