Source: Review copy
Publication: 19th March 2020 from Quercus
Natasha Winthrop is a rising star in American politics, strongly tipped as a future candidate for president. One night she is violently assaulted in her home by an intruder. She defends herself and minutes later, the intruder lies dead. Winthrop is hailed as a #MeToo heroine: the woman who fought back.
But inconsistencies emerge in Winthrop’s story, suggesting that the attack might not have been as random as it first seemed.
When former White House troubleshooter Maggie Costello is drafted in to investigate, she finds intriguing gaps, especially over Winthrop’s early life. She likes this woman, who she believes could – and should – be president. But she can’t shake off the question: who exactly is Natasha Winthrop?
A cat-and-mouse conspiracy thriller of rare intelligence, To Kill a Man explores an unsettling world in which justice is in the eye of the beholder and revenge seems to be the only answer.
I love the Maggie Costello series from Sam Bourne, aka Jonathan Freedland, and To Kill A Man is a terrific read that works perfectly as a stand-alone. Bourne takes real life contemporary events and weaves them into politically charged thrillers that are perfect for keeping the reader hooked and which are intelligent and utterly compulsive.
Maggie Costello, our protagonist, is a foreign policy expert, but these days her skills are far more in demand as a fixer; a skilled PR expert who can anticipate and defuse crises before they happen.
Maggie is being courted by the front runner for President of the United States of America, but though he is a popular candidate, Maggie doesn’t take to him. He is slightly too familiar and yet he won’t pin down his offer to Maggie and all that is combining to make her feel uneasy.
Natasha Winthrop is a human rights lawyer who has recently been quoted as a potential Presidential candidate. A high-flyer, her recent performances in front of a Senate committee have led to her being widely tipped as a candidate for the Presidential race. It doesn’t hurt that she is both young and attractive.
Then Natasha is violently attacked in her own home by a masked intruder. In the process of defending herself she kills her attacker. In this age of #MeToo it does not take long before she is being hailed as something of a heroine which only ramps up when it is revealed that her would-be rapist was wanted for multiple rapes and murder. Then leaks start appearing all over the media that can only have come from inside the investigation and none of them reflect well on Natasha. She drafts Maggie in to help her manage the process and her profile. The unspoken aim is to make sure she is still able to run for President if she chooses to do so.
With a narrative that is both tense and fast paced, this is a brilliant thriller that goes inside the murky world of political campaigning, data mining and fake news all wrapped up in the horrifying truth that is the real statistical evidence of rape in the Unites States.
This is one of Bourne’s real strengths. He builds on a base of actuality to extrapolate a thesis that becomes all too plausible and that makes his novels all the more thrilling and not a little frightening. The reader will recognise similarities to real life events when reading this explosive thriller.
As Maggie investigates Natasha’s life and background, she finds a lot to trouble her and make her re-evaluate her first impressions. What she finds out leads her to a fascinating moral dilemma and will certainly keep the reader poised on tenterhooks.
Sometimes the book will take a slightly fantastical turn, but that just makes it the more exciting and I’m more than happy to let it carry me away, because as we have recently learned, today’s fantasy is tomorrow’s horrible reality.
Verdict: This book carried me with it all the way. I love this series and Maggie Costello is a brilliant character and this book is one of the best political thrillers I have read. Intelligent, plausible and thought provoking, it’s a must read for me.
Sam Bourne is the pseudonym of Jonathan Freedland, an award-winning journalist and broadcaster. He has written a weekly column for the Guardian since 1997, having previously served as the paper’s Washington correspondent. Jonathan Freedland was named Columnist of the Year in the annual What the Papers Say Awards of 2002 . His first novel, ‘The Righteous Men,’ was a Richard and Judy Summer Read and a Number 1 bestseller. His next two novels, ‘The Last Testament’ and ‘The Final Reckoning’ were both top ten bestsellers. He lives in London with his wife and their two children.