Books: A Hatchet to Tony Blair or Fiction?

Picture a former British prime minister who got mired in a Middle Eastern war alongside the United States. He's charming, but glib for some tastes. By his side: a manipulative wife.

Surely it's Tony Blair. Well, not quite. It's Adam Lang in "The Ghost," a new thriller from British novelist Robert Harris, which reviewers say is "a fictionalized attempt to stab Tony and Cherie Blair firmly in the front."

It's a well-paced tale of wrongdoing in high places, but the familiar lead characters are what excited critics. Harris, an author of upmarket thrillers ("Fatherland," "Pompeii"), was formerly a journalist close to the Labour Party elite. He once praised "the consummate politician," then disenchantment set in after Blair reached Downing Street.

Lang (a former college actor) is not quite Blair (a former student rocker). Yet the final verdict on Lang rings familiar: "In the flesh or on the screen, playing the part of a statesman, he seemed to have a strong personality. But somehow when one sat down to think about him, he vanished." Harris won't deny the similarities but insists Lang and his wife are fictional. Anyhow, he says, Blair is unlikely to read the book.