Today Alex Craigie shares an extract from her dystopian novel Acts of Convenience.
About the book
Imagine, if you will, a near future where governments adopt policies that suit them rather than the people they were elected to represent.
Imagine a near future where old age and chronic problems are swept away with expedient legislation.
I know; it’s an unlikely scenario.
However, it’s a scenario in which Cassie Lincoln finds herself.
It’s a scenario that compels her to take action.
It’s a scenario that leads to despair and danger.
An extract from Acts of Convenience – Chapter 8 – 2025
The Health Secretary pauses outside the Prime Minister’s office. In her hand she carries a slim notebook and a file of neat, colour-coded papers. She smooths down her skirt, checks her hair with a light patting of her palm and then knocks on the door with the knuckle of her middle finger. The curt ‘Come in’ is barely uttered before she enters and approaches the massive desk on shoes that manage to combine no-nonsense business sense with high fashion.
She delivers her patter.
‘Prime Minister, I have here some research carried out by my office regarding the consequences of the Voluntary Euthanasia Bill. As you know, the results have been overwhelmingly positive with very few examples of people abusing the power it confers.’ She pauses. The Prime Minister was only elected three months ago but has had a wealth of cabinet experience under his belt to draw from. He understands the system and motions her to continue.
‘Another statistic has been drawn to my attention. I have just sent you an email with all the details, but I also have the hard copies here.’
She spreads out the colour-coded sheets across the gleaming surface of the desk. A perfectly manicured, crimson nail taps at the page that holds centre position.
‘You see here, and here and here. The Health Service has made considerable savings through no longer having to care for unresponsive patients who are only being kept alive by expensive technology and dedicated staff. If I can draw your attention here,’ the nail hovers over one of the other sheets before resting at the bottom of a column of figures, ‘you can see how much has been saved during the last three years in London alone.’
The Prime Minister leans forward, interest piqued.
The Minister for Health continues her slick campaign. ‘We spend a huge proportion of the budget on prolonging the lives of dementia sufferers. Care homes across the country are struggling to keep pace with the increasing demand for places. Many of these people with dementia, are unaware of their surroundings, unable to express themselves and in a living hell from which there is no escape.’
A faint grunt encourages her on.
‘The latest documentary on Our World Today showed these wretches squealing and crying out, desperately unhappy and hopelessly confused.’ She tries to muffle her excitement at what’s to come.
‘We’ve all seen the letters in the press, and the posts on social media, from relatives of people with advanced dementia. They speak of their distress at seeing those they love suffering dreadfully and with no hope of improvement.’
She stops and hopes that her pitch hasn’t been overdramatic and that she hasn’t overplayed the ‘poor wretches’ card.
The Prime Minister looks up, an inkling of what’s to come in the glittering of his eyes. The Health Secretary picks up on the favourable mood and drives home her scheme.
‘In collaboration with the major hospitals in the country, we’ve come up with a proposal that will end the plight of those who are incurably ill and insensible to their surroundings, while at the same time freeing much-needed beds and finance for younger people who are on lengthy waiting lists for urgent surgery.’
She takes a deep breath. ‘And so, we propose another euthanasia Bill that will allow medical staff–– and I do stress only medical staff –– to determine when a dementia sufferer has lost all contact with reality and is experiencing nothing but discomfort and unhappiness. If the medical staff conclude that the quality of life is no longer tenable, and we will insist on no less than three being in agreement on any one patient to rule out errors or abuse, then they will be permitted to painlessly bring the life to an end.’ She adds, ‘After family have been informed and allowed to pay their last respects, of course.’
The Prime Minister sits back, fingers tenting while his mind races through the ramifications of the proposal. ‘And you say that the hospitals are for this?’
‘Yes, Prime Minister.’
‘What proportion of the letters arising from the Our World Today item is in favour of bringing an end to suffering in this way, would you say?’
‘An overwhelming majority, sir. In the region of seventy-eight percent, I believe. Viewers say that they find it upsetting when they visit someone who no longer recognises them and who is clearly and irrationally upset.’ She bends across the table and her voice drops a little, conspiratorial. ‘Some are also, of course, quite reasonably concerned at the costs involved in keeping relatives in these homes and the eroding away of their inheritance as a consequence. This column here,’ the nail stabs at the figures, ‘shows the average cost of a place in a middle-rated home.’ The Prime Minister tips forward again. The patter continues.
‘That is the cost per week.’ The sudden in-drawing of breath is a satisfying response. She has him, and the rest of the country will follow suit in due course.
One of the reviews for the book on Goodreads
This is a slow burner; the first third of the story sets the scene, the world that Cassie Lincoln and her family live and work in. This is a Britain that is inexorably controlled by a corrupt Government through its machinations within the National Health Service. There is an almost dystopian sense to the plot, without there having been an initial catastrophe, where the self-serving wealthy and influential people thrive and the populace suffer year by year.
I always say that I do not give spoilers in my reviews; I point out the strengths of a novel as I see them and explain why I like them. But I will also explain what doesn’t work for me. So, for the latter, I’ll say it took a second read to fully appreciate why there is a long lead -up to the action… and then there is that ‘light bulb moment’, when all the groundwork makes sense and ties in as the story progresses. And, once the action starts (at around a third into the book) there are many twists and turns to the plot.
The opening chapter is heartbreaking ( I’ll say no more but it’s our introduction to Cassie and her husband Adam in 2017). In the following chapters we follow her and her family, quite rapidly, through to 2055. And, at the same time we are privy to the conspiracies and manoeuvrings of subsequent Prime Ministers and their Governments, desperate to hold on to their power and wealth through corrupt Acts of Parliament. These are presented to the nation as strategies for the ‘greater good ‘. And any dissent is portrayed as anarchy and violent crime – and dealt with viciously.
It is to the author’s credit that, even though this is a plot- driven novel, there has been no neglect of the characters; all are well-rounded, multi-layered and grow as the story continues: some I thoroughly liked, others I disliked, some even irritated me – yet all leapt from the page as true personalities. The dialogue , both spoken and internal, excellently convey the emotions of the characters and it is obvious at all times who is speaking, even without dialogue tags.
The descriptions of the settings are well written and give a strong sense of place, a must for me as a reader; I need to see the world the characters inhabit.
Interestingly the story is written throughout in the present tense, with the third person narrator revealing the viewpoint of each of the main characters. This adds to the tension for the reader, I think.
As I said above, this is a slow-burner. But the detailed lead-up is necessary and interesting and ultimately it is well worth the wait. I have no hesitation in recommending Acts of Convenience.
Read the reviews and buy the book: Amazon UK
And: Amazon US
Also by Alex Craigie
Read the reviews and buy the books: Amazon UK
And: Amazon US
Read more reviews and follow Alex: Goodreads
About Alex Craigie
Alex Craigie is the pen name of Trish Power.
Trish was ten when her first play was performed at school. It was in rhyming couplets and written in pencil in a book with imperial weights and measures printed on the back.
Since her birth in Sunderland, she has moved house fourteen times. The last move was to Pembrokeshire in 1986 with her husband and their three children under the age of four. They knew within that first week that they wouldn’t be going anywhere else.
When her children were young, she wrote short stories for magazines before returning to the teaching job that she loved.
Trish has had two books published under the pen name of Alex Craigie. Both books cross genre boundaries and feature elements of romance, thriller and suspense against a backdrop of social issues. Someone Close to Home highlights the problems affecting care homes while Acts of Convenience has issues concerning the NHS at its heart.
Someone Close to Home has won a Chill with a Book award and a Chill with the Book of the Month award. In 2019 it was one of the top ten bestsellers in its category on Amazon.
Book lovers are welcome to contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org
Connect to Alex Craigie via: Facebook
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