Politics is a funny thing. It can feel like another dimension: a strange, rarefied place where people really use phrases like “strong and stable” or “Make America Great Again”. The same cloth-eared impresarios are also obsessed with novelty. New initiatives, elections, treaties, laws and manifestos are constantly being announced.
But in practice, change is rare – and that’s rather unfortunate, because despite its lofty airs, politics affects us all. In practice, people can get hurt.
In Blood Summit, Robert Pimm inexorably leads us from the glossy, media-managed present back to the beginning. World leaders are gathering in Berlin, where the glass dome of the Bundestag glitters over the city, the same shape as the globe itself. Modern architecture rising out of old foundations. Modern problems. Modern crises. But down in the underground security tunnels, someone is nursing a terrible wound: an old, old secret, kept for decades.
The storyline here is fairly slow-burn. Events take place, mixed in with plenty of introspection from the characters. (In Pimm’s world, nobody gets out unscathed: it’s not just the villain who has secrets.) But once the final set-piece begins, events unfold with dizzying rapidity, and there are some genuinely astonishing twists.
One has the reassuring sensation of being in the hands of an expert. Not only is the story neatly told, but the author knows the territory inside out. Anyone who has had dealings with government types, especially diplomats, will recognize the faces in the crowd scenes. The tricks of speech, the camaraderie and even the machinations of petty tyrants are all sharply familiar.
It seems only fair to warn you that things are pretty bloody. You might have guessed it from the title. I wouldn’t call the violence gratuitous, since every moment in the story serves a narrative purpose: but it’s not necessarily pleasant. Here are bad people, says Pimm, and they are going to do bad things, and they like it when people watch.
So we watch. It’s a thrill. But you may catch yourself feeling a little more wary of other people than before. Everyone’s got secrets, after all.