Saturday, March 12, 2011


FRIENDLY FIRE by Michael Wall (Penguin, 1998)

Reviewed by Craig Sisterson

An outstanding out-of-print political thriller which despite being written more than a decade ago, feels very timely and relevant with its blend of national politics, media power and influence, international spying, and global economic markets. Worth digging out. 

Renowned expat journalist Erin Florian returns to Wellington from Europe to become Press Secretary for the new Prime Minister, after finding her French husband in bed with someone else. She quickly finds herself caught up in the political world, including plenty of intrigue caused by the new MMP system, and the Government’s junior partner undergoing a leadership coup.

When the new leader starts making outrageous demands, Erin has to dampen media speculation that the Government is coming apart at the seams. But why is the new leader so sure that Erin’s boss will eventually succumb to what seems like a poisoned chalice? Erin witnesses a killing, which is covered up, then finds herself under scrutiny from the secretive SIS, and the lesser-known but even more powerful and dangerous GSCB. More deaths, hidden conspiracies, and the country nears the brink of political and economic meltdown.

This is a flat-out great international thriller, from a talented author who's sadly fallen out of print. Before he became a novelist, Wall was himself a Press Secretary for a New Zealand Prime Minister (Jim Bolger in the early 1990s), and he certainly brings all that experience and inside knowledge to bear in what is a fantastic thriller, full of twists, intrigue, interesting characters, and more. Global economics, the Waihopai base and intelligence services, international relations, and the place of the media are all issues canvassed in FRIENDLY FIRE, woven into a cracking plot that keeps the pages whirring.

I was riveted, and left bemused that I hadn't heard more about Wall in recent years. This is world-class thriller writing, set right here in New Zealand. My overall verdict: it's well worth scouring online secondhand dealers or your local library to get your hands on a copy of FRIENDLY FIRE. I'll be reading more of Wall.

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