Friday book review – The Fear Index by Robert Harris

Published by Emma Lee-Potter in on Friday 16th December 2011

Virtually every journalist I know dreams of emulating Robert Harris and writing a bestseller. But few stand a chance of being as successful as the former Observer political editor. To date he’s written eight novels, sold millions and seen his books translated into 37 languages.

Harris switched from journalism to novels with the publication of Fatherland in 1992 and has never looked back. The Ghost, seen as a thinly disguised attack on Tony Blair, was made into a film starring Pierce Brosnan, Ewan McGregor and Olivia Williams and Harris later won both the French César and the European Film Awards for best adapted screenplay.

The great thing about Harris is that as well as being a talented, intelligent writer he’s also an outstanding storyteller. He makes writing look easy but his books are expertly plotted and based on months of solid research. He once said: “I’ve always wanted to earn my living by writing. The best thing is to go into my study in the morning and put words together” – and that’s exactly what he spends his life doing.

And he’s certainly on scintillating form in his latest novel, The Fear Index. This pacy tale follows one day in the life of Dr Alex Hoffman, a brilliant physicist who used to work at CERN (home of the Large Hadron Collider).

In recent years Hoffman has developed revolutionary computer software that tracks human emotions, enabling the mega-successful hedge fund he’s launched with a partner to predict the financial markets and make billions. Then in the early hours of a May morning an intruder breaks into the Geneva home he shares with his wife and Hoffman’s ordered world starts to unravel.

This bang-up-to-date thriller is utterly compelling. If you’re looking for an extra Christmas present for someone, look no further.

The Fear Index by Robert Harris (Hutchinson, £18.99).

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