Edgy and brutal, Robert Wilson’s The Big Killing takes no prisoners on a wild ride through the lawless territory of West Africa, where greed rules and bodies lie trampled in its wake like so much detritus.
If possible, the Dark Continent has become even darker while its lush natural bounty and untapped resources are fought over by raptors representing every power in the world. On the Ivory Coast, diamonds are the cause of intrigue, theft and murder, a source of revenue that allows the importation of weapons for tribal ascendance and mass murder by one faction after another, by one so-called “legitimate” government after another backed by various interests to assert their control over an arena too rich not to be plundered. The cost in lives hardly matters to these players. This population is expendable.
Bruce Medway makes his living as a fixer, a man willing to do “bits of business, management, organization, negotiations, transactions and debt collection.” But he won’t engage in anything criminal or domestic. Medway is currently working off a debt, so when a stranger asks him to do a quick job, a drop which will end Bruce’s current financial woes and allow him to pay off his debt, he considers the opportunity. Whether out of stubbornness or hubris, Medway agrees to become involved in a situation that his intuition warns against. This one bad decision begins a series of confrontations that become more complicated and violent, where one layer of intention obscures another and the motives are more suspect and dangerous by the hour. The bodies pile up as quickly as the nefarious characters with hidden agendas.
Wilson is one of those master craftsmen, a multi-talented storyteller like Robert Stone, who combines a number of radical ideas, blending them into a seamless plot that never compromises or disappoints. From the decadence of porn purveyors to diamond smugglers, arms merchants and corrupt officials, Wilson pulls his characters from thin air and sends them swirling into the poisonous brew that has become the killing field of a war-torn and criminalized Africa.
At the same time, Wilson presents a moral clarity as his story defines the intense struggle of a continent made dark by the intentions of its exploiters. This is political mystery/fiction at its most powerful, pointing the reader toward awareness of a brutal reality and the exercise of power by each government for purely selfish gain, the pillaging of natural resources and political ascendancy.
Once you start, be prepared to keep reading. I did, and when I was finished, Wilson gained another enthusiastic fan.