A Beautifully-Plotted Thriller Full of Unexpected Twists and Turns.
James Hayman: About an hour into Alan Glynn’s political thriller Bloodland, I turned to my wife and said, “I can’t follow what the heck is going on in this book. The author keeps introducing new characters and new situations that, as far as I can tell, have absolutely nothing to do with each other.” I thought about tossing the book aside and starting another but decided to go a little further before doing that. I’m very glad I did. By the time I got to the end I was telling her that Bloodland was one of the best political thrillers I’d read in a very long time.
The story straddles the globe from Dublin to the Congo to London to Italy to New York and is told from the points of view of a whole stable of characters, all male.
The hero, if there can be said to be one, is Jimmy Gilroy, a young Irish journalist thrown out of work by the great recession and struggling to pay the rent. To make ends meet Gilroy accepts an advance to write a quickie biography of a professional celebrity named Susie Monaghan, who was killed three years earlier in an unexplained helicopter crash off the Irish coast. Five other people died with her.
That decision by Gilroy (the only genuine good guy in the book) sets off a chain reaction of events that involve all the key players in the book.
The tale involves a frighteningly plausible array of movers, shakers and loose cannons. In no particular order we see the plot unfold through the eyes of:
-A not particularly competant US senator who is eager to make a run for the White House.
-The senator’s much smarter older brother who is the ruthlessly ambitious CEO of a major international mining company.
-A Congolese rebel commander who controls vast mineral deposits in the jungle and who is trying to play the American company off against the Chinese for his own benefit.
-An alcoholic former Prime Minister (or Taoiseach) of the Irish Republic with too much time on his hands who believes that people in high places owe him personal and professional favors.
-An Irish real estate developer now on the verge of bankruptcy who once had a financial interest in the Congolese mine.
-An Italian UN official who was on the same helicopter flight as the starlet.
-And two military contractors who work for a private security firm that looks, feels and smells a lot like Blackwater.
I fully agree with the reviewer for Britain’s Guardian who wrote of Bloodland: “I’ve not read such a multi-layered, expertly plotted portrayal of arrogance, greed and hubris for a long time – there are, as the publishers claim, echoes of John le Carré, 24 and James Ellroy here, but Glynn’s talent is all his own, and his ability to ratchet up the tension is eye-popping.”