Most helpful positive review
A real achievement.
on 29 June 2014
This book represents a very satisfying thriller and a truly impressive extension beyond genre, as well indicating a significant step forward for it's author. And by 'extension beyond genre', I do not imply the sort of disquisition into 'grand themes' that is often a weakness with some of the luminaries of spy and crime fiction, but rather the elegant and sometimes rather striking way in which the inner lives of his main characters, Ben Webster most of all, are animated and written out.
The development of the character of Ben Webster becomes a real achievement. His idiosyncrasies, like those of most of us, are a constantly shifting scale of talents and failings, and the weight of these imbalances is a constant source of debate in the mind. Rid yourself of the failings, and you might throw away the talents too. Webster's wife's analysis that his resentment of the very people he investigates is a strange form of self-loathing may be true, but this very resentment is also the foundation for his motivation to investigate in the first place, not to mention the defining point of his personality and profession as an investigator and not a diplomat or indeed financier. Whether his investigations are worthwhile or not is always going to be an open question at the source of another constant internal debate. As an investigator he has access to a world beyond his imaginings in terms of 'wealth' and 'influence', on the other hand his interest as a character and as a human, and by extension the appeal of the narrator to the reader, is precisely his role as ironic guide to a world he knows is full of demented horrors.
The deft handling of moral complexity, the sorts of dilemmas, paradoxes and confusions that beset everyone in the most important aspects of their lives is often truly moving.
The writing is more than up to the delicate task of balancing these internal debates with the forward motion necessary for an exciting thriller. I found the transition in the first three chapters, from exposition and information to Webster's wife's analysis on waking in the morning (after Webster has returned from a stress dispelling morning outdoor swim) truly breathtaking, and beautifully and efficiently rounded off in the final sentence of chapter three: 'Five minutes into a new day, without the benefit of cold and exercise, and she was effortlessly right.'