Three new thrillers ripped from the head­lines

Nov­els cater to our para­noia and hit close to home

Calgary Herald - Calgary Herald New Condos - - Weekend Life - JAMIE PORT­MAN

Thriller writ­ers are al­ways seek­ing rel­e­vance. In to­day’s world, that can of­ten mean — sur­prise, sur­prise — Is­lamic ter­ror­ism. Some might call this cyn­i­cal lit­er­ary op­por­tunism, given the real-life hor­rors af­flict­ing Mid­dle East pol­i­tics. But let’s face it — popular fic­tion has al­ways found it lu­cra­tive to cater to our para­noia. And in fair­ness, there are times when, within this genre, we are re­warded with qual­ity prod­uct.

Con­sider Lorenzo Car­caterra’s The Wolf, which some have called the best Mafia novel since The God­fa­ther. And what does or­ga­nized crime have to do with ter­ror­ism in the Mid­dle East and on the streets of Europe? In the case of this novel’s chief pro­tag­o­nist, Vincent Marelli (a.k.a. The Wolf ) it has ev­ery­thing to do with the fact that Vincent’s wife and daugh­ters had the mis­for­tune to be in the Pi­azza Santa Croce in Florence, Italy, at the mo­ment when a sui­cide bomber named Ali Ben Bashir de­cided to press the but­ton.

The re­venge tragedies of El­iz­a­bethan times have their coun­ter­parts in to­day’s popular fic­tion. Mean­ing that in this novel, Vincent Marelli de­cides on ret­ri­bu­tion. Fur­ther­more, he will be a for­mi­da­ble avenger — a ruth­less in­ter­na­tional gang­ster who runs the big­gest crim­i­nal op­er­a­tion in the world. Vincent con­sid­ers him­self a busi­ness­man who es­sen­tially be­lieves in the Amer­i­can way — or rather his def­i­ni­tion of the Amer­i­can way. In the grief-stricken af­ter­math of the Florence bombing tragedy, he knows who the real bad guys are.

Au­thor Lorenzo Car­caterra is an old hand at es­capist fare, and The Wolf emerges as a highly read­able but blood-drenched thriller.

In­ter­na­tional vil­lainy also pow­ers The Mad­men of Beng­hazi, the over­hyped 2011 thriller by the late Ger­ard de Vil­liers. There’s no denying that this novel, set mainly in Libya dur­ing the dy­ing days of the Gad­hafi regime, dis­plays a cer­tain pre­science: It opens with a ter­ror­ist at­tempt to bring down a Boe­ing 777 air­liner with a guided mis­sile — and won’t that seem eerily fa­mil­iar to any­one fol­low­ing to­day’s head­lines? By the time de Vil­liers died in 2013, he had pub­lished well over 100 spy nov­els fea­tur­ing an Aus­trian no­ble­man and free­lance CIA oper­a­tive named Maiko Linge. Ad­mir­ers see him as France’s an­swer to Ian Flem­ing and Maiko Linge as his James Bond — but don’t be­lieve it. The Mad­man of Beng­hazi, which deals with a cuckoo CIA plot to re­store the Libyan monar­chy, has a cer- tain top­i­cal­ity, but its char­ac­ters are cut from card­board. Wil­liam Ro­dar­mar’s trans­la­tion sug­gests a pedes­trian writ­ing style some­what be­low even the stan­dards of Dan Brown. The only time the oc­to­ge­nar­ian de Vil­liers shows some sign of arousal from his colour­less prose is when he writes an ex­plicit sex scene.

In the world of best­selling Cana­dian writer Lin­wood Bar­clay it’s the en­emy within that can ter­rify. His riv­et­ing new thriller, No Safe House, be­gins with a home in­va­sion that un­der­scores its au­thor’s un­set­tling gift for writ­ing per­sua­sively about the men­ace lurk­ing be­neath the placid sur­face of suburbia and small-town Amer­ica. It is in this en­vi­ron­ment, that he pur­sues his favourite theme of the mid­dle-class fam­ily un­der siege.

The new novel takes us back to char­ac­ters first en­coun­tered in No Time To Say Goodbye, the novel that cat­a­pulted Bar­clay to the in­ter­na­tional best­seller lists. We’re re-in­tro­duced to Cyn­thia Archer, who con­tin­ues to be haunted by mem­o­ries of the morn­ing when, as a teenager, she awak­ened to dis­cover her en­tire fam­ily had dis­ap­peared, and by the terrifying af­ter­math she suf­fered as an adult decades later. Now new hor­rors are sur­fac­ing for her­self, hus­band Terry and re­bel­lious teenage daugh­ter Grace.

Grace makes the big­gest mis­take of her young life when she and her delin­quent boyfriend break into an un­oc­cu­pied house and into a heap of mur­der­ous trou­ble.

As the deaths and dis­ap­pear­ances mount, the fam­ily finds it­self in ter­ri­ble peril with Terry — fa­ther, hus­band and Bar­clay’s lat­est Ev­ery­man hero — strug­gling to res­cue it. Then, an un­savoury fig­ure from their past re-emerges as a po­ten­tial saviour — and if the finely drawn character of ca­reer crim­i­nal Vince Kelly raises con­flict­ing emo­tions in the reader, Bar­clay will be happy. This, too, is a thriller writer fas­ci­nated by moral am­bi­gu­ity.

Lin­wood Bar­clay

Lorenzo Car­caterra

Ger­ard de Vil­liers

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.