An angry man with nothing to lose is a deadly combination. His oldest friends are frightened about what he may do. Just what is Chris Hastings plotting? Will it disrupt the London Olympics? Will his friends become suspects?
In 1984, with the miners’ strike at its height, eight friends, self-labelled ‘The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, pledged to act against hypocrisy -hypocrisy they’d seen in government, in business and in the media. They sponsor investigative journalism and the leaking of confidential files into the public domain. They measure their success by the resignation of people in high places.
The most active of Chris’s friends is the oldest – Dave. Though always the ‘life and soul’, he is bitter and jealous – and has scant respect for the others. He has planned his exit and has scores to settle.
What keeps the group intact is attendance at special events, usually sporting, three or four times each year. The twelve months of the novel begins and ends at the O2 Arena, in London, with the ATP World Tennis Finals. In between come the London Olympics and Paralympics.
These get-togethers are lively, the verbal exchanges funny. They mask the tension arising from hiding guilty secrets from each other, in some cases for decades. Until 2012 everything they have achieved together has been under the radar. Now, though, their leader is a loose cannon. They fear he may put them all in the spotlight.
This tense psychological thriller is set in two countries – Malta, close to the turbulence within the Arab League countries, and England during a year of sporting excellence and establishment scandal.
Exploring the murky borderline between fact and propaganda from Western media, the novel describes the effect on those that discover the sickening truth. Some then care with a vengeance and some, at the end of their lives, care just as deeply about settling old scores with their ‘friends’.
Five men and one woman, Trude, are members of the Lord Chamberlain’s men and living in England. One of their members is dead, but his son – Pup, a likeable, newly successful professional entertainer, has been in from the start. He lusts after Charlie, an ambitious and inquisitive young woman, who meets all the members but for Chris, who is in Malta. She has a powerful Uncle, Sir Nigel Morris. Sir Nigel is a senior civil servant and one of the Lord Chamberlain’s men’s eleven targets for 2012.
Pup and Charlie, independently, try to piece together from the others what might happen. Are Dave’s briefings to be trusted? Steph, a long-time friend of the Chamberlain’s Men and one time partner of Chris is equally curious and seeks Trude’s opinions. Their best guesses are very different.
The other ‘Men’ are: Trude, a Northern spinster and civil servant; Tricks, a gym owner and Ric Flair lookalike; Steve, a successful and charming small business owner and Nick, a flash, but continually scared, international executive, who is grimly hanging onto his job. He is able to meet with Chris, who is dying in Malta.
The ‘Men’ in England must piece together from letters, primarily to Dave, what one man’s plan to change the world might be. No digital communication between the Lord Chamberlain’s Men has ever taken place: Chris’s lack of a voice box limits their discussions too.
The invasion of Iraq, Chris’s illness and then the regime change in Libya provide the tipping point for Chris’s new level of activism on the world stage. The proximity to death and degree of fulfilment has led to the change of ambition, some of it deadly, amongst the remainder of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men.
Explosions in a harbour in Malta end the novel but before they occur Chris has forever changed the world order – to the horror of his friends.