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The History Book    by Humphrey Hawksley order for
History Book
by Humphrey Hawksley
Order:  USA  Can
Grand Central, 2007 (2007)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The History Book is a timely near-future thriller that looks hard at potential tradeoffs between security and personal freedom in this new age of terrorism. Its young heroine, 'Kat' Polinski, came into the clutches of a dark US government agency, after her arrest as a computer hacker. This happened soon after her father's death in a plane crash, followed closely by her mother's suicide and her sister Suzy's leaving to work in England.

As the story opens, Kat is on an undercover mission to the Kazakh Embassy in Washington, DC. There, she discovers that the embassy staff have been assassinated, and is nearly killed herself. To survive and escape, Kat is forced to shoot the hit men who came after her. Reeling from the shock, Kat is further devastated by the news of Suzy's murder in England. It's a country where security has become ultra tight with Big Brother surveillance everywhere. Suzy was working there as a lawyer for Project Peace.

Nate Sayer, Kat's father's chief investigator and a man she has never trusted, presses her to return with Suzy's body to the United States, though the investigation into the murder is barely underway. One of the investigators, Max Grachev, urges her to attend a lecture on Project Peace, pretending to be Suzy and to make contact there with Suzy's friend Liz, who may know something about how she died. Stubbornly seeking the truth herself, Kat's soon in contact with an underground organization and on the run from both British and US authorities.

Kat not only learns what was behind Suzy's death - and continues her sister's work to unmask a global conspiracy - but she finds out more about what happened to her parents and about a very powerful and very dangerous Russian connection. The History Book is a powerful fast-paced thriller that mixes the improbability of 007-like exploits with a frightening perspective on social changes arising from cynical manipulation of public fear.

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