The Bell Ringers
A Novelby Henry Porter
“For those who like political thrillers, this is one of the season’s best: scary, informative, and, alas, eminently believable.” —The Economist
In Henry Porter’s new novel, The Bell Ringers, England in the near future appears largely unchanged. There are concerns over the threat of terrorism, the press is feisty, and the prime minister is soon to call a general election. But quietly—and largely unknown to the public or even most in government—things have become undeniably Orwellian: cameras with license plate recognition software record every car’s movements; a sophisticated top-secret data-mining system known as Deep Truth combs through personal records, identifying violators of minor laws as well as those disposed to “antigovernment” beliefs. In the interest of security, the divide between private and public has crumbled. Freedom has given way to control.
David Eyam was once the prime minister’s head of intelligence. He was one of those who knew about Deep Truth, but he suffered a fall from grace and then died in a terrorist bombing. Now his former lover, Kate Lockhart, has been named as the benefactor of his estate. But Eyam has left her more than just his wealth; Kate is also the heir to his dangerous secrets and unfinished business.
The full power of the out-of-control, security-obsessed state comes down on Kate, but with the help of the secret resistance known as the Bell Ringers, hope for freedom is not lost. Absorbing, eerie, and unsettlingly realistic, The Bell Ringers is a fearless work from a talented novelist at the top of his game.
“The Bell Ringers is a wonderful novel. I read it addictively and was sorry the minute it was over. It’s way too good to be called a thriller.” —Richard Ford
“[An] outstanding near-future thriller. . . . Shaken U.S. readers will wonder how much of the fiction might soon become fact on this side of the Atlantic.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Outstanding.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“For those who like political thrillers, this is one of the season’s best: scary, informative and, alas, eminently believable.” —The Economist
“Henry Porter writes fabulous novels. Empire State was one of my favorites a couple of years back. The Bell Ringers is even better, a spy novel for everyone who loves le Carré and Deighton, but with a crisp modern woman in charge. You won’t put this novel down until the final paragraph. ” —Margaret Cannon, The Globe & Mail (Canada)
“[The] characters are skillfully rendered, and Porter deftly ratchets up the tension as MI5, hired assassins, and police close in . . . . superb thriller.” —Thomas Gaughan, Booklist (starred review)
“Just a blink away from reality.” —Deadly Pleasures
“Read it and you’ll be hooked.” —Alan Cheuse, Dallas Morning News
“The prose sings . . . Gripping and chillingly realistic.” —Kirkus Reviews
“A sophisticated, engrossing, and important political thriller.” —Patrick Anderson, The Washington Post
“The Orwellian parallels are clear, but Porter gives the subject a subtle, complex and well-timed shot in the arm.” —Adam Woog, The Seattle Times
“Superb.” —Anna Mundow, The Boston Globe
“So full of today’s technical reality that it’s hard to think of it as science fiction.” —John R. Alden, Cleveland Plain Dealer
“There’s nothing preachy about this page-turner. While the complex story is as chilling as it is credible, the characters are smart and personable and the revelations and action unfold at an accelerating pace. A well-written thought-provoking thriller about modern technology, complacency and paranoia.” —Lynn Harnett, Seacoast Sunday
“A thoughtful and provocative thriller with a nail-biting ending. The Bell Ringers is one of those books you want everyone to read.” —Marion E. Cason, I Love a Mystery
“Porter has all the talents of a good thriller writer, particularly strong, crisp characterization and the ability seamlessly to blend action and expertise. What really stands out in this novel, though, is the grimly plausible glimpse he gives us of a future that is already creeping up on us: a United Kingdom where elements of government and corporate interests are combining to monitor and ultimately control the lives of the country’s citizens.” —The Spectator
“A vibrant thriller dealing with . . . the surveillance state and the erosion of individual liberty. Although set in the future, it feels as up-to-the-minute as tomorrow’s headlines.” —Roger Alton, The New Statesmen, Books of the Year
“A well-crafted page-turner . . . a great read.” —Chris Cobb, The Ottawa Citizen
“This sobering, chilling novel might be the best in crime fiction for 2009.” —Paul Fiander, The Chronicle Herald (
“A tense, intelligent conspiracy thriller.” —John O’Connell, The Guardian (UK)
“A daring, stylish and tensely paced thriller.” —Metro (UK)
“Bowls along at a cracking pace with more twists and turns than a street map of Venice.” —The Independent (UK)
“A gripping and thought-provoking thriller.” —Choice
“A fearsome vision of how existing legislation could be used by a paranoiac government intent on total control . . . a timely cautionary tale.” —The New Statesman (UK)
“A salutary warning of what happens when big business and politics end up in bed together. I’m sure some with think Porter to be paranoid. The rest of us will feel it’s terrifyingly plausible.” —ReviewingTheEvidence.com
Finalist for the 2010 CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger
One of the Daily Telegraph‘s Thrillers of the Year
The bells were being rung open rather than half-muffled, as is usual for the dead. And when the peal fell suddenly into the cold, bright Tuesday morning the people in High Castle’s Market Square glanced toward the church, eyes freshening, as though spring was being announced, or someone had decided that life itself should be celebrated. Kate paused at that first peal. Above her, a camera in a black hemisphere fixed to the side of a building watched everything in the square yet, like the woman who had followed her on the short walk from the hotel, it almost certainly missed the striking beauty of the moment.
Kate was certain about this watcher, a slim woman in her mid-thirties wearing a tan trouser suit. She plainly had more training than practice in surveillance.
There was no substitute for experience, as she had always been told by McBride, nominally second secretary (economic) at the Jakarta embassy, but in reality head of MI6’s head of station. That was a lifetime ago, when she was married and living in a flat near the embassy, but Kate hadn’t lost the ability to read a street and spot the false moves of a bad actor. And this girl, as McBride would have said, wouldn’t cut the mustard in the Scunthorpe Repertory Theatre.