One Of Our Ministers Is Missing by Alan Johnson: Fast-moving, action-packed mystery – book review –

When a government minister vanishes whilst on a solo trek in the mountains near his holiday home in Crete, it opens up a mystery stretching all the way back to London.

One Of Our Ministers Is Missing  by Alan Johnson
One Of Our Ministers Is Missing by Alan Johnson

A former cabinet minister himself, Labour stalwart Alan Johnson has found a new career as an author with the publication of his sharp and insightful memoir trilogy, fast-paced espionage thriller The Late Train to Gipsy Hill, and now an intriguing and compulsive crime drama with a dark political edge.

With a career that included a spell as Home Secretary, Johnson has insider knowledge of the workings of Whitehall and in One Of Our Ministers Is Missing, we are thrust into the shadowy life, career and loves of a politician with a ministerial bag full of secrets and scandals.

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It’s a story steeped in not just the dark arts of politicking but other topical themes like sleazy tabloid journalism, corruption, policing, assassins, larger-than-life characters and the beautiful landscape of Crete, a place that Johnson knows well.

Foreign Office minister Lord (Edward) Bellingham has a cushy number. As one of the youngest members of the House of Lords, he can take a government role without all the inconvenience of having to win a parliamentary seat.

His fortune was made in property development but his passion has always been politics, and he loves good living. To that end, Bellingham has a luxury holiday home in Crete where his lawyer wife, Miranda, their four-year-old twins, and live-in nanny Sharron Fuller spend most of their time between April and September.

But on a short holiday to the island, Bellingham mysteriously disappears on a solo trek into the famous White Mountains. Despite a vast search-and-rescue operation, the Greek police have no leads, except for a mobile phone discarded on a cliff edge.

Back in London, 46-year-old Assistant Commissioner Louise Mangan of the Met Police is sent out to Crete to assist in the investigation. It’s a job she relishes because, despite her stellar rise through the ranks, she is at heart a police officer ‘more inclined towards overworking than overseeing.’

But Mangan soon discovers that there are more layers to this case than the local police – led by the deeply suspicious and decidedly unhelpful Captain Petros Diamantapoulis – realise. Meanwhile, Lady Bellingham is less than forthcoming, the family nanny seems to be hiding something, and a scandal is brewing back in London that could destroy the minister’s reputation for good.

Under pressure from the powers that be, can Mangan find the missing minister, or will she discover something much more sinister at play?

Johnson is in his element in this fast-moving, action-packed mystery which tingles with menace and stars a sassy police chief only too happy to ditch her uniform and get back on the ground for some of the old-fashioned detective work that has always been her stock in trade.

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And there is plenty for ACC Mangan to get her teeth into in a multi-layered case that pits her feminine wisdom and wiles against the tensions that flow from a truculent Greek detective who is determined to assert his masculine territorial dominance and keep her firmly behind the front line.

In what is fast becoming his trademark style, Johnson peoples his thriller with a cast of authentic, superbly drawn characters, each with a distinctive voice, each with a credible back story, and each playing their part in our journey to some unexpected corners where secrets fester, and politics and revenge play out their dirty games.

Expected cunning red herrings, some ingenious plot twists, and an unexpected denouement as Johnson delivers his best thriller yet!

(Wildfire, hardback, £20)