Book reviewing is not something we’ve ever done on this blog not something either of us has done in general but when we heard there was a political thriller set in local government it seemed rude not to.
Hard Change, the book mentioned above, is written by Dawn Reeves and can be purchased here (and doubtless in a variety of other places!)
Let’s start with the basics; this book is really good and well worth a read. I’m obviously a form of super-target audience as I work in local government, love thrillers and find the subject matter (more of that in a minute) fascinating. However, I think the way the book is put together, the strength of the characters and the quality of the story means I think this is a book with wider appeal.
The book follows a number of interconnected public servants working in the midlands and confronting a series of all too common public policy problems. Chief amongst these are a budget crisis, the regeneration of a town and the blight that alcohol can have on local communities and the people in those communities. It starts off with a drunk girl in a bin and develops from there revolving around the working, and personal, lives of a senior police officer, a senior council officer and a Director of Public Health.
As you would expect the characters are exaggerated versions of the sort of people you would meet in this line of work. However, this makes them brilliant. As you read through the book you keep noticing bits of the characters that you can totally recognise from work. This ranges from the workaholic power female, the excessively analytical manager, the salt of the earth union officer, the non-traditional police officer focusing on the big picture of crime, the power hungry councillor and the younger policy officer ignored by his bosses. The characteristics are really well drawn and the personalities believable.
What of the story? While it is a little difficult to get into the details of the story at first, the awards ceremony scene has too many people in it so early in the book for example, once the girl in the bin is discovered and the detail surrounding the council budget starts to be explored the story really comes into its own. From about 100 pages in the book rattles along at a mighty pace and really takes the reader with it as the layers of the story are laid on top of each other.
I won’t spoil the ending but it is worth saying that if anything I found the conclusion a little disappointing; not in terms of the story telling, which I raced along with, but just in terms of the solution offered which I never quite got on board with.
However, that’s a minor quibble in a book which I rate extremely highly. It treats the public sector with a sensitivity and understanding which is hard to find and manages to turn the mundane lives and jobs we have into a really interesting and, at times, thrilling book.
I’d recommend that everyone in, and with an interest in, the public sector should take a read.