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‘Completely absorbing and told with huge compassion, integrity and skill’
CAROL ANN LEE, author of The Murders at White House Farm and A Passion For Poison

In November 1974, British MP and former cabinet minister John Stonehouse walked into the sea off a beach in Miami and disappeared, seemingly drowned.

Then he was found – on the other side of the world, in Australia – and his extraordinary story began to come to light: a Labour cabinet minister and a devoted family man; also in a long-term affair with his secretary, and a spy for the Czech State Security agency, who had committed fraud and attempted to fake his own death to escape catastrophic business failures.

Was it a mental breakdown as he later claimed? Or were there more sinister reasons for his dramatic disappearance?

This is the definitive biography of Stonehouse, written by Julian Hayes, who, as the son of Stonehouse’s nephew and lawyer, Michael Hayes, is uniquely placed to tell the story of this charismatic but deeply flawed politician. As a criminal lawyer in London, Hayes has used his in-depth knowledge and experience of the criminal courts, not least the Old Bailey, where the Stonehouse trial took place, to forensically examine Stonehouse’s story, including Czech defector Josef Frolík’s claim that he was a spy.

Hayes has unearthed secret reports in the archives in Prague written by Stonehouse’s former spymasters. He has also gleaned much from family members and lawyers involved in the trial and from the trial documents and other government papers held in archives in the UK and Australia.


What a book - and what a character. I loved every minute . . . I should imagine that had Stonehouse's life story occurred to John Le Carré as a plot for one of his novels, he would have dismissed it as too far-fetched. Completely absorbing and told with huge compassion, integrity and skill. Stonehouse was ahead of his times in many ways, yet decadent, deceitful but also very engaging and intelligent . . . it's really the power of his personality that drives the book, which is ripe for dramatic interpretation of some kind, either television or film. Julian Hayes is a born storyteller too, and his family certainly gifted him with a remarkable story that lingers long after the final reading.
Carol Ann Lee, author of <i>The Murders at White House Farm</i> and <i>A Passion For Poison</i>