Edition: HarperCollins, 1998
Review number: 165
The Buddha of Brewer Street is the second of Michael Dobbs' new series about politics, featuring Thomas Goodfellowe, MP (whose name formed the title of the first book). Clearly disenchanted with the biting satire of his first political series, the House of Cards trilogy, Dobbs has embarked on something far gentler in that respect with the Goodfellowe novels. A word of warning, though: The Buddha of Brewer Street contains some explicit and extremely unpleasant torture scenes, making the book not one for the squeamish.
The plot concerns Goodfellowe's involvement with the Tibetan Dalai Lama, in the last few weeks he spends as a Foreign Office minister before resigning to attend to family affairs. When the Dalai Lama dies as the result of a terrorist attack, his closest followers begin the search for his reincarnated successor. (The treatment that they, another Tibetan monks, receive at the hands of the Chinese is what forms the unpleasant side of the book, mentioned above.) When they realise that the portents say the child has been born in Britain, Goodfellowe becomes involved.
As in the earlier book, the character of Goodfellowe is the mainstay of The Buddha of Brewer Street. The other people gain in realism the closer they are to him and the more they are involved in the chaotic private life which is so important in the portrayal of his character. (This is by no means an uncommon device, because it mirrors the way in which each person knows and understands more about those who are closest to them.) Dobbs writes well, and understands Westminster thoroughly, a combination which has produced much success for him and which ensures that many will continue to read his books in the future.