What is this about? Casey is a reporter at the Post when she sort of accidentally stumbles on to an unexpected story. This is a detective story as much as it is a political thriller, a journalist’s story and a story about money and that the dregs of humanity can be found in three piece suits in fancy houses.
What else is this about? The book pulls no punches in the ruthlessness of reporters, or the actions of the rich, powerful and entitled. There are confronting scenes and other elements in this book.
A journalist must follow the clues, no matter how far that takes her.
Casey Benedict, star reporter at the Post, has infiltrated the lives and exposed the lies of countless politicians and power players. Using her network of contacts, Casey is always on the search for the next big story, no matter how much danger this might place her in, no matter what cost emotionally.
Tipped off by an overheard conversation at an exclusive London nightclub, she begins to investigate the apparent suicide of a wealthy young British man, whose death has left his fiancée and family devastated.
Casey’s determined hunt for the truth will take her from the glitz of St Tropez to the deserts of Libya and on to the very darkest corners of the human mind.
To the Lions is a confronting book.
Have you ever wondered what journalists or photographers do when they see a child dying?
Yeah, I didn’t want to know either. I wanted to believe in the best of humanity, but Holly Watt presents the reality of life as a journalist. She herself in an investigative journalist, who has written about the refugee crisis, covered the Panama Papers and chased pirates in the Indian Ocean.
Which means her work has a level of awful authenticity — which yes, kept me reading.
Casey is a hot-shot reporter at the Post, the kind that gets the stories no one else will, and who can take the smallest of titbits that make no sense and turn them into something awesome. She and Miranda, a fellow hot-shot reporter are partners in crime, and while Miranda is present in this book, this seems to be Casey’s story (My one quibble here is that Miranda is very under-used).
So what’s the story morning glory?
After hearing something in a London nightclub, Casey finds herself trying to hunt down the truth behind the suicide of a young man — infiltrating (she really did) his family, and using every resource she can to find out details about his life and death.
The book excels when it is focused on the search for the story, on the newsroom — the editors and reporters, and the game of one-upmanship with the other reporters on other papers.
But Casey and Miranda’s investigation takes them out into the field, into Libya, and a detour into Casey angsting about Ed, the security guy she’s in love with and who has PTSD from his own experiences in the war. It doesn’t play well at all for me, but it’s a blip in Casey’s determination to find out what is happening out in the desert at refugee camps.
I’m going to leave the plot details at this point, because to say any more would venture into spoiler territory in that regard.
Let’s talk characterisation
Casey and Miranda are both fascinating characters — they are at different stages in their lives (Miranda is married), but both are confident, take no prisoners or bullshit women. They play off each other so well, and complementing each other like only a great partnership could — and as I write this, I wish again there had been more of Miranda in this.
The action in the newsroom is fast-paced, filled with secondary characters that fill the gaps in the cast of characters wonderfully. There’s no time to spent on long paras getting to know characters because the story counts and there’s a deadline to be met. Instead, Watts lets you understand these characters through efficient prose that highlights their complexity beyond the role they’re there for.
It’s absolutely fascinating, and that’s why this book is more of an investigative journalist story than a political thriller for me. It’s the rush for the story, the act of manipulating people for reporters’ ends to get the story that appeals to be most of all.