Book Review: The High Road

Previously, I posted a brief review of  The Best Laid Plans, a novel by Terry Fallis. I’ve recently finished reading the sequel, The High Road, which continues the adventures of Angus McLintock, rookie Liberal MP from Cumberland-Prescott.

Warning: I will do my best to avoid major spoilers, but since this is a sequel, it’s somewhat difficult to not refer to events from the first book.

The High Road picks up where The Best Laid Plans ended, with the defeat of the government on a very exciting vote on the budget during a full-on blizzard. That’s all I’m going to say about that incident – to say more would spoil the end of the first book for anyone who’s not read it yet. As I’d explained in my summary of the first book, Angus didn’t want to run for office – he agreed to be the Liberal candidate in a riding that had been PC since 1867 only in exchange for Daniel Addison, former speechwriter for the Liberal Party Leader recently retired from politics and beginning a new life as professor of English at the University of Ottawa, taking over the teaching of the dreaded English for Engineers course that Angus had been saddled with again. Events didn’t go as planned, of course, and Angus did end up winning the seat.

In The High Road, Angus decides that he quite liked being an MP, and throws his hat back into the ring, much to Daniel’s dismay. Daniel really would prefer to not be involved in politics anymore, but he realises he can’t say no to Angus, and the two of them are off and running again.

The first part of the book deals mostly with the election campaign. The PCs are determined to win back their seat, and field Emerson “Flamethrower” Fox as their candidate – a former Tory backroom boy who introduced negative campaigning to Canada. Fallis, of course, manages to throw a bit of twist into the campaign, and so I don’t think I’ll be spoiling too much by saying that Angus is re-elected. The difference this time is that the Liberals also win the election (forming a minority government of their own), and so Angus is on the government side of the House this time. The Liberal leadership, while happy to have hung on to Cumberland-Prescott, would have preferred anyone else to maverick Angus. Luckily, an infrastructure disaster occurs the night of the election, which allows the new Liberal PM to appoint Angus, who is an engineer, to head of his own one-person commission to investigate the hows and why of what occurred, thinking that will keep him busy and out of their hair.

Of course they couldn’t be more wrong on that regard, but I’ll not say more than that.

I found The High Road to be as entertaining as The Best Laid Plans, however, I do have one small complaint. There was one incident in the book that I found somewhat too improbable. All I will say is that it involves a visit by the US President and First Lady and leave it at that. That part was still funny, but it just seemed too unlikely and maybe even too slapstick-ish in some ways. If you read it, hopefully you’ll understand what I mean.

Overall, however, I enjoyed The High Road very much. Like the first novel, it reads quickly, and while maybe not laugh-out-loud funny, it’s certainly smile-inducing funny, even grin-inducing at times. The characters we got to know in the first novel all reappear, and are fleshed out for us even more. And, dare I say it, this novel also ends in a way that could mean we might have a trilogy (or even an on-going series for all I know) on our hands.

On a side note, I work in the area of procedural research and had lent my copy of The Best Laid Plans to one of my co-workers, while another one bought her own copy. They both finished the book during the recent Thanksgiving weekend, and on the Tuesday morning, came by my office to tell me they’d done so. One of them then raised the matter of the dramatic budget vote that ends the novel, saying that it couldn’t happen that way. My other co-worker, who is more familiar with parliamentary procedure in Ottawa said yes, indeed, it could very much happen that way. Only in my office would a debate over the procedural accuracy of a novel start up!

Edited to add: Both The Best Laid Plans and The High Road are available as podcasts on the author’s website.

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