Review - THE MANDARIN CODE, Steve Lewis & Chris Uhlmann

Review Written By
Karen Chisholm

Reading the first book in this series - THE MARMALADE FILES - was a laugh out loud experience, what with scheming Foreign Ministers, dumped Prime Ministers scheming revenge and ... well you name scheming in recent Federal Politics and there will be a version of that in these books.

A series that might work best for followers of Australian Federal Politics, THE MANDARIN CODE continues dredging the depths of the ridiculousness laid bare in that first book. Because of that much of the humour is slightly more subdued here - unless you've not read the first book of course. Mind you, it won't require a close following of the Canberra goings on to realise that this Foreign Minister is recognisable, even with locked in syndrome. Despite only being able to communicate by blinking, electronic messaging therefore, that's not going to stop her, rising Lazarus-like, controlling and generally being a pain in the rear for a Prime Minister under pressure from all sides.

Many of the reasons why this Prime Minister is under pressure are of his own making - the sense of desperation and craziness is palpable and the schemes dreamed up sufficiently insane as to be utterly believable. The interference of foreign powers, the likelihood of foreign spies, even the building of embassies with foreign labour, and obviously nefarious intent, well it's funny in one way and rather sobering in another. In fact, that's probably the whole point of these books. Whilst we're giggling away at the sheer lunacy of politics, the idiocy of politician's behaviour and the insanity of their beliefs and missions, we really should also be squirming - a lot.

If you are a follower of politics then there's a strong chance you'll have a lot of success working out who is who and what real-life scenario they're actually talking about. Even with that keen interest, a bit of search engine exercising might be required to double check - some of these events are just crazy enough to make you wonder if you're imagining remembering. Given that all of the elements this reader checked, there wasn't one that the real-life parallel wasn't identifiable really makes you sit back and think a bit. Could it really be that real-life can be turned into a thriller, with events that just seem straight out of the pages of a comic spy novel? Yep. Seems so.

Having said that there are connections to real life everywhere, if you wanted to read this as purely fictional, as one of those mad, crazy political thrillers there's a great sense of humour, of the absurd and ridiculous - it would work as fun fiction as well. Sadly.

Combine the reality of no matter how bizarre you think politics can get, they can do more; with the insidiousness of cyber threats; and it came as no surprise that THE MANDARIN CODE wasn't as laugh out loud funny as the first book. It's certainly as ironic, telling and sharp. Maybe it's because the world it's sending up is a much more sobering place that there's enough here to make you laugh, but more to make you think, squirm and put your head in your hands and sigh a lot.

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A body pulled from the murky waters of Lake Burley Griffin links Canberra, Beijing and Washington in a titanic struggle where war is just a mouse click away.

Veteran reporter Harry Dunkley is chasing the scoop of his career, hunting for his best friend's killer. Navigating treacherous political waters where a desperate minority government edges ever closer to disaster, he delves into a cyber world where there are no secrets.

Friendship and loyalty give way to betrayal and revenge as Dunkley stumbles into the sights of the mandarins who wield real power - and who'll stop at nothing to retain it.

Political insiders Steve Lewis and Chris Uhlmann bring biting wit and behind-the-headlines insights to this sharply observed sequel to the bestselling The Marmalade Files, once again lifting the veil on the lust and lies that stain the corridors of power.

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