Monday, February 27, 2012

The connections beneath the surface

by Alan Glynn

In a marketplace filled with legal thrillers, techno-thrillers, and crime thrillers galore, a true conspiracy thriller is a rare animal indeed.  This one opens with some sort of paramilitary operation in Congo.  The reader is thrown into a heightened situation without any exposition or background, and it’s a little disorientating.

From there, we are in the study of a young, Irish journalist, Jimmy Gilroy.  These are hard times for journalists.  Papers aren’t hiring, so you take what you can get.  What Jimmy has gotten is a cheesy biography of a troubled actress who died in a helicopter crash a few years earlier.  He is stunned when a former mentor calls and puts some not too subtle pressure on him to drop this utterly inconsequential job.  But it’s a paycheck, and he needs it. 
Next, the reader is introduced to a series of powerful men on both sides of the Atlantic, from businessmen to politicians.  Glynn isn’t spoon-feeding readers his story, and it takes a while to make the connections.  What other readers describe as being “slow,” I chalk up to complexity and brilliance.  The author made me work a little.  There were a lot of names, places, and people to keep straight and links to discover.  I got to uncover what was going on alongside Jimmy Gilroy, and I loved it every step of the way!
Now, this isn’t a novel with a lot of room for character development.  Actually, I think there was more “lack of character” development, because there were some seriously morally bankrupt people in this tale.  But I did think it was well written.  More than anything, I just thought the plotting was so deliciously complex and smart.  It was a pure joy putting these pieces together.  I thought the world of international powerbrokers in which Glynn set his story was fascinating.  While this novel didn’t have the same kind of pacing as an action thriller, I found myself unable to stop turning the pages.  Intellectually, I just NEEDED to know what was going on.  Mr. Glynn gave me several satisfying twists and turns, and I never came close to guessing the ending.  Tension builds throughout the novel as Jimmy gets closer and closer to the truth, and as those who are obfuscating it get increasingly desperate.   It’s all believable enough to make one wonder how much of the world really works like this. 
I’d highly recommend Bloodland to patient readers willing to work a little for a solution.

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