The Dirty War, book Two of the Dictator of Britain trilogy, doesn’t open like its predecessor. There, author Paul Michael Dubal spent considerable time painting the panorama of what England would be like if a right-wing Fascist politician, Lawrence Pelham, came to power. Its sequel, The Dirty War, begins by focusing on the aftermath of the destruction of a small resistance cell we saw crushed in the final pages of book one.
In particular, we spend most of the opening pages with disgraced journalist Harry Clarke, the subject of the largest manhunt in British history. We run with Clarke across the rural countryside as he escapes capture time and time again as we, along with Clarke, see just how barbaric Pelham’s Britain has become, especially the bloody atrocities occurring in the disease-ridden deportation camps.
Among those looking for Clarke is the former leader of that doomed resistance cell, the psychopathic Sean Kelly. After spending months in prison and enduring relentless tortures that force him to give up what he knows about the dissidents and his captors fuel his hatred for Clarke, Kelly is recruited to join the hunt. Another former member of that cell, Detective Constable Kendrick, also joins the hunt for Clarke but with a different motive. Along with Clarke’s former girlfriend, Julianne, Kendrick wants to help.
When we finally spend time with the dictator of Britain, we follow Pelham into an underground labyrinth of laboratories where his private Aryan Project is underway. There, amoral corporations fund experiments in genetic engineering, biological warfare, and psychological manipulation which Pelham keeps secret from his own government. We learn the U.N, other countries, and Pelham’s own cabinet are beginning to see Pelham for what he is although without the evidence to move forward with any legal actions. Those who know him see a very changed man from the politician who came to power less than a year before.
Pelham’s atrocities start to come to light after Clarke becomes a central figure in an underground London resistance cell led by cyber experts who find ways to bypass the government’s control of the internet and social media. Clarke becomes the face and voice of the resistance while nearly everyone seemingly opposed to Pelham double-crosses each other in a layer cake of conflicting betrayals. While this is going on, everyone wonders what it will take to get the U.N. to take any action beyond economic sanctions? Can Pelham be impeached? Can Harry Clarke keep eluding the authorities diligently seeking the most wanted traitor in England?
Like the previous Rise to Power, The Dirty War is a gripping read, all the more chilling because of its all too believable plausibility. True, author Dubal doesn’t touch all the bases and some story points are rather quickly glossed over. For example, the royal family all but disappears and only have a short mention when they complain about trespassers on their property. Surely King William and his family would have much more to say in “real life,” despite the despotic threats of Pelham and his military supporters? Surely Brits living overseas would also have more to say as they’d be out of reach of Pelham’s ruthless police force?
Despite these notes about things Dubal didn’t tell us, what he did write unfolds in a fast-moving, multi-layered, very character-driven epic brimming with thrills, surprises, and more than memorable scenes. For example, the steel drums filled with human exiles and what happens to them at the shipyards are unforgettable. If you’re like me, you’ll want to go on and read the grand finale, book 3 of the trilogy, The End of Days. And remember—2016 was a year when the astonishing and unbelievable did take place in American and British politics. As I said in my review of Rise to Power, don’t be too quick to say “It can’t happen here.” There are just too many folks who wish it would.
This review first appeared at BookPleasures.com on Aug. 25 at: