A jaunty, erratic, ultimately very nasty little tale of one woman's rise and fall in British politics of the near future; readers, probably more so in the U.S. than Britain, will have some difficulty knowing just how to take this odd mix of suspense, black comedy, dullish courtroom drama, and social satire. Helen Chadwick, heiress to a factory fortune and an earthy beauty whose marriage to impotent civil servant Bernard doesn't cramp her roving bedroom style, gains national attention when she gutsily stands up to wildcat strikers at the family plant. And soon she's invited to run for Parliament by some far-right-wingers: the ""Patriot Party"" is formed, Helen is its first elected M.P., and her articulate advocacy of the reinstatement of the death penalty is soon winning favor. Within months, in fact, there are enough Patriot Party candidates to grab a decent minority in the general election--and the Tories are forced to include the Patriots in the new government: Helen becomes Home Secretary. In that capacity she pushes through the death penalty, and she's also chosen to negotiate an oil deal with the U.S. President--an LBJ-ish caricature of crudeness (Sanders' Americans are all off-the-mark cartoons, and his U.S. slang is inaccurate) with whom Helen cavorts on a White House couch. But a nefarious White House butler tapes this dalliance, sells the evidence to husband Bernard, and--when the President's overeager Watergate-style assistant has Bernard killed--Helen (now Prime Minister) is arrested for the murder! She refuses to implicate the Prez, a tediously documented trial ensues, and the massively ironic denouement is inevitable: classy Helen gets a taste of her own death penalty. Is this, then, a smilingly bitter attack on right-wingers like Helen? If so, it's a rather-too-subtle one--because Helen's conservative views are presented as persuasively as possible, and she herself will win over even most middle-of-the-road readers. Still--intriguing stuff, alternately crude and stylish, with special interest for followers of the Parliament scene and perhaps fans of Mrs. Thatcher (to whom Mrs. Chadwick bears not a shred of resemblance).