By Sam Bourne
It would, I suppose, be deeply frustrating, both for the reader and the writer, if real life were to intrude on the neatly wrapped plots of mysteries and thrillers.
Whenever a hero or heroine comes up against a brick wall, in the real world, generally, that's where they tend to stay.
Thrillers, however, demand that the protagonist solves a mystery or unravels the next clue with phenomenal ease.
Jonathan Freedland, writing as Sam Bourne, has certainly sat alongside enough investigative reporters at the Guardian in his time to know that the journalist's key ingredients of "rat-like cunning, a plausible manner and a little literary ability" - in the words of the late Nicholas Tomalin - also require a large dollop of luck. You are there at the right time, in the right place; the person you didn't think would give you the time of day suddenly spills all; the phone number you had from years ago still works…
"Sam Bourne's" heroine, Maggie Costello, is blessed with almost all of the foregoing in her latest outing, The Chosen One.
We first met her as a rather improbable Middle East peace negotiator in Freedland/Bourne's The Last Testament, chasing all over the West Bank and murky Israeli settlements, a hot Israeli lover by her side.
Having failed to bring peace to the region, however, Maggie is now to be found in the White House, working as a political adviser (of course) to the President. Hot Israeli lover is put temporarily on the back burner (he's in New York, since you ask), while Maggie is bounced out of Pennsylvania Avenue DC, and on to a slightly preposterous American road trip.
En route to discovering the real truth about the saintly Mr President, Maggie avoids bad guys, loses personal property and mobile phones with reckless abandon, and magically solves computer mysteries with the aid of her brilliant geek sister, handily stashed at the end of a phone line in Dublin.
Yes, of course it's rhubarb, but it is vastly enjoyable rhubarb, and Bourne/Freedland drives the story along at a fair clip, cheerfully ignoring the many inanities while taking the greatest of glee in killing off one of the more eccentric of his creations. I won't reveal who, but I laughed like a drain. A perfect holiday read.