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by Robert Wilson
Orion, January 2013
416 pages
14.99 GBP
ISBN: 1409143120

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Few writers dare enter the labyrinthine world of crime on the Indian sub-continent. Fewer still will try to explain the nature or functions of Pakistan's ISI, the virtually autonomous, feud-riven agency which maintains links to the CIA and British intelligence while training, supplying and arming such terror groups as Al Qaeda, Lashkar-e-Taiba and the Afghan Taliban. The complicated web of religions and tribal divisions and sheer scale of the abuse of power in both countries Benazir Bhutto once called the Department for Inter Services Intelligence 'a state within a state' is almost too baffling to contemplate.

How both crime and terror can be exported across borders is of vital interest to Britain with its large and growing ethnic communities where many follow the old custom that to be successful requires patronage and that will always come at a price. Few businessmen, whatever nationality, rise to the top without doing something of which they should be later ashamed and which in turn leaves them open to manipulation. Few make it without creating enemies, whether business or personal. Put all this together, place it in the hands of a Golden Dagger award winner and you have the basis for a truly powerful, dark and tension-filled novel. On the borderline of crime story and intelligence thriller, like many of Wilson's books, this dense, intricately plotted and complex piece blends psychological intensity with exciting and bloody action as it races to a brutal and explosive climax.

Alyshia, the beautiful 25-year-old daughter of Indian tycoon Francisco D'Cruz is kidnapped after a night out. The billionaire hires former soldier and policeman Charles Boxer, now a freelance consultant with his own line in punishing offenders, to find her. Boxer's intelligence contacts establish that one-time Bollywood star D'Cruz has a past involving Indian gangsters and Pakistani intelligence operatives. While he tries to counter a clever and arrogant kidnapper, they uncover links to a plot to destroy the heart of London in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics.

This is the first of a series which will feature Boxer, an enigmatic anti-hero with almost as many hang-ups as those he so ruthlessly and methodically pursues. But it is these hang-ups that make him such an interesting and believable central character and in exposing the problems of his cast even the throwaway characters who merely serve to build tension and will later be disposed of Wilson scores brilliantly.

The great strength of this book is that it is so professional. You will find yourself sucked in from the first page, worrying about Alyshia's fate, wondering about her father's motivation, trying to unravel the connections between apparently opposed power blocs. Wilson uses words like pistol shots and blends fact and fiction seamlessly. It is very clever, so diabolically clever that parts might one day become horrifyingly true.

John Cleal is a former soldier and journalist with an interest in medieval history. He divides his time between France and England.

Reviewed by John Cleal, March 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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