The Bell Ringers

The Bell Ringers

4.0 6
by Henry Porter
     
 

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In Henry Porter's critically acclaimed novel The Bell Ringers, England in the near future is eerily familiar. There are concerns about terrorism, the press is feisty, and the prime minister is soon to call a general election. But quietly--largely unknown to the public or even most in government--things have become undeniably Orwellian. Cameras with…  See more details below

Overview


In Henry Porter's critically acclaimed novel The Bell Ringers, England in the near future is eerily familiar. There are concerns about terrorism, the press is feisty, and the prime minister is soon to call a general election. But quietly--largely unknown to the public or even most in government--things have become undeniably Orwellian. Cameras with license-plate recognition software record the movements of every car. A sophisticated top-secret data-mining system known as Deep Truth combs through personal records, identifying violators of minor laws as well as those disposed to "antigovernment" beliefs. In the interest of security, the divide between private and public has crumbled. Freedom has given way to control.

David Eyam was once the prime minister's head of intelligence. He was one of those who knew about Deep Truth, but he suffered a fall from grace. Then, while on vacation in Columbia, he was killed by a terrorist bomb. Now his former lover, Kate Lockhard, has been named as the benefactor of his estate. But Eyam has left her more than just wealth; Kate is also heir to his dangerous secrets.

Chilling, absorbing, and unsettlingly realistic, The Bell Ringers is a fearless work from a talented novelist at the top of his game.

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Editorial Reviews

Patrick Anderson
…one of many novels that have attempted to update Nineteen Eighty-Four—and one of the more impressive…This is a sophisticated, engrossing and important political thriller. Porter wants us to see that the same technological tools that can be used to fight terrorism or to make government more efficient can also, in the wrong hands, be used to destroy freedom. Perhaps Porter's most important updating of Orwell is to show how corporate money might work with political corruption to create a dictatorship behind a democratic facade. The American corporation in this novel supports charities and think tanks, but it also makes the supercomputers that endanger civil liberties, pays huge bribes to the prime minister and his top aides, and provides hit men to dispose of critics.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
In Porter's outstanding near-future thriller, David Eyam, the former head of Britain's Joint Intelligence Committee, is killed by a bomb in Colombia that was apparently aimed at others. His recently estranged close friend and former colleague in the spook business, Kate Lockhart, is surprised to learn she's the main beneficiary of Eyam's will. Her suspicions that the story behind his death is more complex than officially reported are heightened when Eyam's lawyer is gunned down soon after thugs break into his office. While the basic plot—an attempt to uncover a broad government conspiracy against daunting odds—is familiar, Porter (Brandenburg Gate) invests it with urgency and power by taking current legislation drawn up to combat terrorism and projecting how it would play out if special interests and unscrupulous leaders used it to destroy the privacy of individuals. Shaken U.S. readers will wonder how much of the fiction might soon become fact on this side of the Atlantic. (Feb.)
Library Journal
Sixty years after the publication of George Orwell's 1984, Porter (Brandenburg Gate) turns to England's very near future in a chilling political thriller that is all the more frightening when one realizes that Orwell's dystopia has quietly become current reality. Expatriate lawyer Kate Lockhart returns to London to find that a close friend, David Eyam, the former head of Britain's Joint Intelligence Committee, has apparently been killed in a terrorist attack. To her surprise, Eyam has left not only most of his estate to her but also a host of dangerous secrets. Before Eyam fell out of favor with Prime Minister John Temple, he had set up a secret and invasive data-mining system, now being misused by Temple and his corporate backers. With powerful forces allied against her, Kate and Eyam's "bell ringers" must risk death to save a country poised on the brink of a "vindictive technological totalitarianism." VERDICT A corrective read for anyone who feels more secure because of the Patriot Act, this gripping novel will appeal to readers of action-packed patriotic thrillers (think Brad Thor) as well as fans of David Baldacci and Brad Meltzer. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 10/15/09.]—Ron Terpening, Univ. of Arizona, Tuscon
Kirkus Reviews
After her former lover's death, an English spy turned high-powered New York lawyer discovers clues that point to a sinister conspiracy. Kate Lockhart is shocked to hear that David Eyam has been killed in a terrorist bombing in Colombia. But while the inquest seems to leave little doubt as to the immediate circumstances surrounding his death (the blast was captured on video), Kate still finds herself asking a number of questions. What was David doing in Colombia? Why had he suddenly left his senior post in the British government and relocated to a provincial village in Wales? Why did he leave a sizable amount of money to a local group of bell ringers? And why, considering the fact that he and Kate weren't exactly on speaking terms, did he make her the principal beneficiary in his will? When a packet of papers that David's attorney seems especially anxious to deliver to Kate are stolen from his office, these questions take on a new urgency, and they become positively life-or-death when the attorney is shot and killed immediately after leaving the cottage Kate just inherited from David. As she scrambles to make sense of recent events, Kate finds several clues David left behind pointing to a plot that might implicate high-ranking members of the British government, and as she nears the truth she finds herself in greater and greater danger. Porter (Brandenburg Gate, 2005, etc.) sets his story at an unspecified point in the next few years, and his vision of near-future England is chilling, primarily because it so closely resembles England today, with near-ubiquitous CCTV cameras (something like one for every 14 people) keeping British citizens under almost constant surveillance. While thenarrative occasionally bogs down in details, the prose sings, and fully fleshed characters unraveling a compelling mystery provide more than enough momentum to power through the slow bits. Gripping and chillingly realistic.
From the Publisher
"[An] outstanding near-future thriller.... Shaken U.S. [listeners] will wonder how much of the fiction might soon become fact on this side of the Atlantic." —Publishers Weekly Starred Review

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780802145260
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
01/11/2011
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
509,200
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x 1.25(d)

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"[An] outstanding near-future thriller.... Shaken U.S. [listeners] will wonder how much of the fiction might soon become fact on this side of the Atlantic." —-Publishers Weekly Starred Review

Meet the Author


Henry Porter is a political columnist for The Observer newspaper in London and the UK editor of Vanity Fair. He has written five novels, including Brandenburg Gate, winner of the CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award.

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The Bell Ringers 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
KenCady More than 1 year ago
After reading this book, and seeing that I am the first to review, I wonder- am I going on a government list for reading this book? Is my review to be archived in my personal government file, to be retrieved when the citizenry are hauled in for violations of some secret Act? Those are some of the feelings that you might be left with after reading Henry Porter's timely novel postulating what might happen in Britain if the current trend toward government intrusion in the lives of its citizens continues. The apathy of the British public to its declining privacy is also a focus, and fear, in the novel. As a spy novel, or thriller goes, the book rises and falls. When the character Kate Lockhart starts sleuthing, there are moments of Nancy Drew to be seen. But when Porter sticks to the government itself, a creepy feeling comes up your back and you know he has his finger on the real danger facing the public- itself, and its complacency that rights long held will forever be held.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book had me on the edge of my chair at all times. It's based in the too distant future Britain. Was fun to hear them refer to the London Olympics (which are happening presently) in the past-tense.
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BerkeleyBob More than 1 year ago
Henry Porter is well-regarded in England and has some background in government. His book is a very unpleasant look at a near future England with omni-present surveillance. The technology is an extension of the present day, with multiple camera feeds, etc. What is chilling is the ability of those close to a laborish Prime Minister to justify and ratchet up fear to justify mass round-ups of dissidents, etc. The message is to be very beware of faceless men and women who "want to help" and think that extends to violation of fundamental civil liberties on a massive scale. Of course, that couldn't happen here...
SueDunham More than 1 year ago
I loved the writing style. A nice change of pace from some of the pablum I have been reading. This book hits too close to home, causing the reader to wonder who might be using the vast amount of personal information now available on each of us to ultimately limit our freedom. It also sounds the bell on our willingness to give up privacy and civil liberties for false security. When I finished this book, I tried to find others written by Henry Porter, but was unable to do so. Hopefully, more of Porter's books will make their way to my local Barnes & Noble.