By Robert Peston
- The Crash
Author: Robert Peston
- Series: Book 2 of Gil Peck
- ISBN: 9781838777814
- Published: September 2023
- Pages: 383
- Format reviewed: Hardback
- Review date: 15/09/2023
- Language: English
The crime genre is huge, and a protagonist can become involved in solving a murder in numerous ways. Being a police officer or PI makes sense, being an elderly lady or vicar less so, but authors still manage somehow – to remarkable success. Another easy option is a journalist. Their job is already to investigate so it makes sense that a roving crime reporter comes across a case of misjustice and wants to settle the score. Crime reporter on the beat. What? Robert Peston’s The Crash is about the Chief Finance Reporter at the BBC solving a murder, but it works.
In 2007 London was one of the biggest financial hubs in the world and this was a great boon to the Labour government of the time, but lapsed oversight meant that it was also one of the most at risk to the Subprime Mortgage crash. BBC journalist Gil Peck is trying to get his bosses to listen to him when he says that the UK economy is on the brink, but he is a lone voice. It is only after a member of the Bank of England kills themselves that it becomes newsworthy. For Peck, it also become personal as the banker was his lover. Refusing to believe that she would kill herself Peck delves into the murky world of power and politics to seek justice, any means necessary.
An economics editor and murder are not the best of bedfellows, but Peston makes it work by having the stakes so high. This is not just company politics, but on a global scale. With banks going bust and businesses up for sale at a cheap price, there is certainly enough money floating around as a motive for murder. The book is set in an alternative 2007. Some of the characters are real, but those that play an important part are also often versions of real people. The likes of Brown, Blair, Murdoch, and a whole host of people are given a facsimile.
The character of Peck is a version of Peston, having had the same job etc. I am pretty much sure that Peston did not solve murders though. Some of the fun in this book is working out what is real and what is fiction. It feels heightened, but also truthful. You can imagine the late-night parties with the journalists and politicians mixing for candid chats and illicit entertainment.
The crime story is the core of the book and what makes it work. They say write what you know and Peston sensibly creates a tangle of politics and finance, all hiding murder. As someone who studied economics, I had no issues following the more detailed sections, but some readers may be as bored by them now as they were then – hence one of the reasons that there was a crash as no one was interested in mortgage issues for the poor.
An area that Peston may want to introduce in an upcoming novel is an assistant or intern for the Peck character. On a couple of occasions Peck asks for detailed information on an economic or financial situation that he would be well versed in. It seemed odd for a prominent BBC journo to need to know about Subprime mortgages or a writer for the Financial Times proxy not knowing about the art of phone hacking. A wet behind the ears assistant would be the perfect foil to tell these things to.
The stilted exposition is a small issue in an otherwise entertaining thriller. The mix of realpolitik and fantasy makes for a fascinating read. You get a thriller, but also an insight into the world of UK politics in the 00s. Are some of the stories a way of Peston writing real events without naming the real people? I am sure that in the case of the murderers that is not true! To find out who they are, you will just have to read the book.
Written on 15th September 2023 by Sam Tyler .