The final installment of the House of Cards trilogy strikes a more somber note than its predecessors. Francis Urquhart--prime minister and murderer--has almost overtaken Margaret Thatcher to become Britain's longest serving postwar leader, but the public is tiring of him and there are rumblings of dissent in the Conservative Party. When the prime minister's bullying goes too far, his foreign secretary, Tom Makepeace, resigns and prepares to challenge for the leadership. Urquhart and his wife (who makes Lady Macbeth look benign) plot to secure both their place in history and their financial future. An opportunity presents itself in the shape of the Cyprus Agreement: a treaty between the Greek and Turkish inhabitants of that island. The Urquharts learn that there are massive oil deposits along a disputed sea boundary, and a Turkish businessman promises them a large "consultancy fee" if the oil ends up on his side of the border. However, Urquhart has other ties to Cyprus, because it was there (as a young soldier in the '50s) that he killed two Greeks. If this is uncovered, Urquhart will be finished. Attacked from all sides, it looks like there's no escape, but as he watches the Thatcher Memorial taking shape on the lawn outside his office, Urquhart vows to triumph again. With the help of his wife, the shadowy Commander Cawdor, and an ambitious member of Parliament who had an affair with Tom Makepeace, he might yet find a way to succeed. Once again, writer Andrew Davies has created a satire to relish, one that confirms all of our doubts about the motives of politicians. Ian Richardson's wonderful performance--filled with sly asides and winks to the camera--makes Francis Urquhart as fascinating as he is wicked, and we find ourselves rooting for this terrible man. The world would certainly be a duller place without him. --Simon Leake
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