Now that she's a freelancer for magazines like Femme, Helen Clare thinks her days of writing about death--those days she spent in Iraq, East Timor, and Medell°n--are over. But a fluffy Sunday Chronicle assignment on the romance between Labour spin doctor Simon Healy and his actress fiancÇe Hester Allan sends her into the office of Tony Bagnall just in time to find the Labour backbencher hanging from his ceiling. Why would inoffensive Bagnall have killed himself--or been important enough for anybody else to kill? The answer drops with unwelcome certainty onto Helen's lap when she ties Bagnall to a sex ring that left a ten-year-old boy dead on Hackney Marshes. But as she rises to more and more stratospheric political circles--a birthday party for the PM's wife, an exclusive dinner with a Tory think-tank-- and falls so hard for Labour strategist Joe Rossiter that you can tell there'll be stormy weather ahead, she begins to wonder which leads to stinging exposÇs she's uncovering herself, which are being fed to her, and which might be nothing but smoke screens. Journalist Bedell's debut does an expert job of juggling political chicanery, journalistic savvy, and a double dose of free-floating paranoia. Especially recommended for Americans who worry that they're the only people who think their government is out to get them.