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A talent to thrill - 2 exciting political thrillers

May 30, 2017 by Nora Nagy

Detective stories, mysteries and thrillers have enjoyed immense popularity in recent years. Just think of Scandinavian thrillers like the Millenium trilogy, or TV series like House of Cards. Many of our teenage students are becoming interested in politics and what is happening in the world around them and start understanding what a fragile and important question social justice is. This is the time to introduce them to investigative fiction, allowing them to develop their critical thinking and analytical skills.

When selecting stories for young adult and adult learners it's always a good idea to choose something they care about, a story they are familiar with from their the everyday news. We have two political thrillers with universally familar themes of corruption and state secrecy, written by Scott Lauder and Walter McGregor, the two author-friends who also wrote another Helbling Reader, The Albatross. The authors are currently working on an exciting prequel to the two stories in order to complete the trilogy.

The Right Thing and A Single Shot are aimed at young adult and adult learners at an intermediate level (CEF level B1, Cambridge level PET, Trinity levels 5-6). Since they deal with serious topics, they will be challenging and engaging enough for grown-up readers, too. The Right Thing was published in 2016, and A Single Shot came out in May 2017.

What are the stories about? 

The Right Thing

When Josh meets Trish and Suzi at their first day of college in London, little do they know that they will soon be swept up into a mystery involving the British and Yolandan governments. Luckily for them, Morrow, a British Security Service agent, takes them under his wing. But by doing so he has to decide what is the right thing to do. What will Morrow’s decision mean for him? Only Control can decide.

A Single Shot

When Lewis Morrow escapes from his captors and a sure death he makes a new life for himself as a taxi driver in Paris. He thinks he has left everything behind until one day he sees three young people he once helped in London. When Josh, Trish and Suzi get into trouble, Morrow needs to decide if he will help them or let the past stay in the past. Find out what he decides in this exciting sequel to The Right Thing.

Ideas for classroom work and discussions

The setting

The Right Thing is set in London, while in A Single Shot we visit Paris. All through the stories we see an overview of the landscapes of the two cities, passing their most famous landmarks and getting glimpses of the everyday life of Londoners and Parisians. We see how the weather changes what people are doing at certain times of the day as we move through the streets.

If you have students who are more interested in architecture and travelling, ask them to focus on the features of the setting in these stories, collecting examples of what happens at each landmark and how the environment is described.

The plot

The Right Thing is presented in the form of daily events, just like in a diary. A Single Shot is resembles a more traditional narrative, divided into chapters. Both stories have complex plots with lots of details, and they offer good practice in the meaning making potential of narrative tenses.

Ask your students to create a news report about the events. They can start with a day-by-day description of the events, presenting it in a visually meaningful way can make the plot more accessible. For example, ask them to present the events in a calendar format. They can also choose to draw a big map of London and Paris and add the events to the different landmarks.

Political issues

With older or more informed students you can also discuss the evident and underlying political issues that the stories are dealing with. Which countries share a similar history to Yolanda? What are the main problems in these countries?

The illustrations

It's worth paying some attention to the illustrations in these stories. The illustrator, Arianna Vairo's style perfectly matches these exciting stories. You can use the images to create an atmosphere and predict what the stories are going to be about. You can also rely on these full-page illustrations to retell the story, and ask your students to express their feelings invoked by them.

Who are the authors?

Walter McGregor


Scott Lauder
Scott Lauder

Get to know the authors in an interview they gave us before the publication of the stories, and read the Meet the Authors section at the beginning of each book.

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