The inside—deeply inside—account by the investigative writer who broke the British phone-hacking scandal wide open.
Davies (Flat Earth News: An Award-Winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media, 2009, etc.) is known for his tenacious grip on his targets and his cutting, vivid writing style. Writing for the Guardian, he came across an enigmatic tip that journalists for Rupert Murdoch’s tabloid newspaper News of the World were routinely hacking into the voice mails of celebrities, famous athletes, regular citizens and royals and then grabbing photos and quotes from their victims to lay a false trail and publish a damning article. The phone hacking—perpetrated usually by private detectives hired by editors at the publication—eventually ensnared 6,349 victims and caused the News to shutter. At the end of the day, noted one prosecutor, it was nothing more than “at the highest level, a criminal enterprise.” If this book were merely about unethical Murdoch media outlets, it would serve as an educational read for journalism students. Because Scotland Yard continually refused to warn the victims and stonewalled Davies’ questions and because former News editor Andy Coulson became Prime Minister David Cameron’s media adviser, this is a darker, more engrossing tale about the web of unspoken, ultimately “passive” power Murdoch and his editors held over the power elite of the U.K. as they tsk-tsked them into embarrassing revelations. Davies has crafted nothing less than a primer on how to patiently, doggedly investigate a story, replete with a host of quirky characters—e.g., a bulldog of a lawyer with multiple sclerosis who had a sideline as a stand-up comedian and a reporter who specialized in dressing up as a “fake sheikh” to deceive sources into shedding their secrets.
No one does scandal quite like the British; this one is a real doozy that deserves Davies’ entertaining, no-stone-unturned eagle eyes.