The best political thrillers to spill the beans on the system

Louise Burfitt-Dons Author Of The Missing Activist: A Gripping British Political Thriller (P I Karen Andersen series)
By Louise Burfitt-Dons

The Books I Picked & Why

House of Cards

By Michael Dobbs

Book cover of House of Cards

Why this book?

I enjoyed this book and loved the movie even more. It convinced me that people were fascinated by the inside story of politics. By his own account, most of the content on this book was drawn from what he saw working as an advisor to Margaret Thatcher when she was Leader of the Opposition. He claimed in an interview writing the book was a holiday distraction after he left office. But the title of the book is now one of the most used terms in conversation to sum up manipulative behaviour. Very “House of Cards!” 


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The House

By Tom Watson, Imogen Robertson

Book cover of The House

Why this book?

Check out Tom Watson’s insider account of similar behaviour within the Labour Party as in House of Cards. Once Deputy Leader, he quit his position because of the “brutality and hostility” within the ranks. It is a good depiction of the sacrifices and betrayals required and shows no party system has the moral high ground when it comes to bullying and duplicitous behaviour.


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Casino Royale

By Ian Fleming

Book cover of Casino Royale

Why this book?

The first of Ian Fleming’s books has James Bond on an assignment to bankrupt terrorist financier Le Chiffre in a high-stakes poker game at the Casino Royale in Montenegro. Far fetched perhaps, but in fact, inspired by a trip to The Estoril Casino with his superior when Ian Fleming was working for Naval Intelligence. It’s my favourite Bond book.


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A Perfect Spy

By John Le Carré

Book cover of A Perfect Spy

Why this book?

This twisty tale of a British spy and double agent Magnus Pym is also a thinly disguised portrayal of his early life. Before turning to writing, John Le Carre worked as an intelligence officer for both MI5 and MI6. Unlike Fleming's glamorous portrayal of spies, his heroes were often depicted as lonely, tragic figures. The fact he knew the inside of the system gives his books extra gravitas.


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The Prince

By Niccolò Machiavelli, Tim Parks

Book cover of The Prince

Why this book?

Once read, never forgotten. To explain the "Machiavellian" behaviour which makes up the majority of spy and political thrillers, you should start with this. It's even recommended as a leadership manual. The Prince is a political treatise written in the 16th century by Italian diplomat and political theorist Niccolò Machiavelli as an instruction guide for new princes and royals. It outlines strategies that a ruler must follow to govern. The message behind it is a warning. "Just because you behave decently doesn't mean others will."


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