Identity Theory Paperback – 9 May 2006
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About the Author
Born in South Africa, Peter Temple is one of AustraliaÂs most acclaimed writers, and has worked as a journalist, magazine editor, and teacher. He is the author of seven novels, three of which have been granted the Ned Kelly Award for crime fiction. Identity Theory is the authorÂs American debut. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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There is a video tape, the recording of a village massacre, in the hands of one man, a South African mercenary. When he tries to sell that tape, alarms go off around the world, particularly London, Germany and the United States. All this is past history, long considered safely buried and it is unacceptable that such images should reach a live audience. To this end, factions move to block that one South African mercenary, who gets lucky once too often.
A newspaper woman in London wants to buy the tape; frustrated in her attempts, she doggedly pursues any leads. A purveyor of information supplies relevant data to clients, no questions asked as long as the client pays well. Until the long-forgotten past emerges and the pieces become too obvious to ignore. And the mercenary dodges and feints, avoiding discovery, but aware that the odds are against him. This is a world where collateral damage is as acceptable as income tax; a certain number of losses are expected and pass mostly unnoticed. When that delicate balance is disturbed and information leaks out, disparate forces unite to stifle those asking dangerous questions.
This novel is a disturbing read, but it is not a book to be easily put aside. Temple builds the tension and ratchets up the action to the page-turning end, an excellent, well-written thriller that evokes malevolent shadows of intrigue and special ops. We all know these forces are at work out there somewhere. We just don't know the details or suspect the urgency of certain information. Temple reminds us that the surface has cracked; categorical denial by any government is imminent. Luan Gianes/2004.
Protagonist John Anselm, an American, lives alone in his ancestral home in Hamburg, Germany, and works as an information dealer for a struggling firm, finding people, things and secrets. The owner is an old friend, with plenty of his own shady secrets. Anselm used to be a roving foreign correspondent until he was taken hostage in Beirut. His captive experience has left him haunted by fears and demons, his memory fragmented.
In the prologue we meet mercenary Con Nieman, whose security job ends in a bloodbath, leaving him in possession of a tape showing American soldiers massacring an African village. What this means and why its recovery is important enough for "collateral damage" not to be a problem, weaves together a story of ambition, avarice, political evil and expedience, and even love. Temple's characters are complex and intelligent, his writing is spare and eloquent and the tight plot is exotic and suspenseful. Readers will be looking forward to finding more Temple novels in local bookstores.
The style of Identity Theory (originally published as In The Evil Day) is often spare, even terse; while there are some richly detailed passages to establish character and setting, some chapters consist of nothing more than dialogue between two unidentified speakers. This befits the shadowy world Anselm and Niemand inhabit, where knowing who you're working for may be difficult, dangerous, or hard to reconcile with your conscience... and while trust may be rare and larger loyalties obsolete in that environment of `plausible deniability', where the interests of nations have become secondary to those of political parties and the corporations who finance them, Niemand, Anselm and Wishard do have consciences.
Temple shows his mercenaries, deadly as they may be, as more honorable than the people who employ them in the hope of being able to disavow responsibility. Niemand is first and foremost a survivor, acting on instinct when threatened, but he protects his friends as best he can, is capable of gentleness, and has no tolerance for those who enjoy killing. Anselm is equally efficient, to the point of being workaholic, but he is loyal to his boss and colleagues, able to empathize with those he hunts, and loves his family.
The women in this novel may sometimes seem too good to be true, and their civilizing influence almost miraculous, but they are a necessary part of Temple's world - proof that it is worth living in, and preserving.