Robotham’s new thriller displays the maturation of a major player in the genre with a complex international plot and characters born of a world all too familiar with war and terrorism, the power of the wealthy and desperation of the poor. The tale begins on two fronts - Iraq and London - two major protagonists embroiled in unraveling a puzzle that will bring them face to face and scrambling to outwit the same enemy.
The author artfully builds each dangerous scenario. Chapters alternate between London and Iraq, where journalist Luca Terracini grows suspicious of a series of bank robberies and the movement of Saddam’s ill-gotten funds, reconstruction efforts masquerading as legitimate investments of taxpayer money. Eventually Luca meets Daniela Garner, an American actuary on special assignment who helps him piece together the outline of a criminal enterprise that reaches shocking international proportions, the recent bank crisis exacerbating both tragedy and opportunity.
Meanwhile, in London, ex-detective Vincent Ruiz falls victim to a scam perpetrated by a young woman and her boyfriend. Appearing “a damsel in distress,” Holly Knight seems to need the assistance of bystander Ruiz, but the clearly-troubled girl rewards him with a Mickey and a robbery. A similar robbery links Holly to a missing financier, Richard North, currently accused of embezzlement on a massive scale. Holly becomes the subject of a massive manhunt, unaware that she has stolen a critical item along the way that puts her in imminent danger. Lucky for Holly, the world-weary Ruiz is more compassionate than vindictive: “He’s an intelligent man but not a complicated one.”
Robotham seamlessly blends his two-pronged plot. Each moves ahead until both Ruiz and Terracini find themselves on the same page and on the cusp of exposing an elaborate plot with a scorched-earth resolution, a classic good-guys/bad-guys confrontation complete with law enforcement, journalistic and financial details that reinforce the complexity and cynicism of such schemes: “Every side has men who kill for a cause. Money or God- some motives are easier to understand.”
Iraq is war-ravaged, frantic, death at every turn, the machinations of greedy men fueling chaos that allows them to plan an outrageous robbery of the public trust. While London is calm in comparison, the nefarious actions of determined men create pockets of violence from the pursuit of a terrified and mistrustful Holly to Ruiz’s detainment for questioning by the police to the stealthy invasion of North’s home, where his pregnant wife is threatened.
The smooth faces of businessmen and war profiteers, international thugs and agency spies form the inscrutable mask of respectability in Robotham’s thriller. Conscienceless men break laws with impunity, a particular breed of vulture that is a by-product of war and financial imperatives. Yet the author skates away from cynicism, firmly grounded in the experience-honed characters of his protagonists. Devastating as the message of this thriller, Robotham has firmly planted his feet in the genre, a writer to watch - and anticipate.