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Instruments of Darkness (Harvest Book) Paperback – Bargain Price, July 1, 2003
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"A witty, fast-moving and picaresque tale . . . peopled by deliciously shady characters."--Nelson DeMille
"An atmospheric and absorbing debut ... Vividly paints a credible picture of a world I know almost nothing about. Now I feel I've been there." --Val McDermid
PRAISE FOR THE COMPANY OF STRANGERS:
"An espionage thriller of the first order--complex, exotic, romantic."--San Francisco Chronicle
PRAISE FOR A SMALL DEATH IN LISBON:
"A taut international thriller."--Time
About the Author
ROBERT WILSON is the author of numerous novels, including The Company of
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The plot is overly convoluted--the subsequent books are less contrived-- but this is a good adventure book. Worth buying
His evocation of the latter is pretty good. It's regrettable in one way that West Africa gets used as the backdrop for a noir (no pun intended) book: Africa has many problems, which this type of book amplifies, while leaving out the good stuff. All the usual pulp-fiction violence and depravity makes the Dark Continent almost too much to bear. But you can feel the heat, taste the dust, see the squalor, and sense the people.
Medway, a Brit in Benin with the usual vague private-eye job - he does odd jobs for people, sort of a fixer - is nearly killed over a multimillion-dollar payment for a rice shipment. Then two people, one of whom he had been asked to find, turn up dead, one hideously murdered in Benin, the other an apparent suicide in neighboring Togo. The circumstances are highly suspicious, but police in both countries are staying away. Only Medway and suspended Benin police detective Bagado seem to care.
As other reviewers note, the plot is highly complicated, although not really much more than in other whodunits, where webs of double and triple-crossing routinely get so tangled as to strain believability.
The writing is spotty. Wilson tries too hard to establish the typical hard-boiled dialogue and photographic-description narrative. At some point I just didn't want another half-page description of someone's appearance, probably because I come from that fraction of humanity that can't tell anything about a person by looking at them.
He also seems stuck about how to apply the American detective-novel style to a British character. Sometimes the idioms are American, other times English and sometimes the style just seems caught in the mid-Atlantic, neither here nor there. Combining drier British humor with the Chandler and Hammett style made for a weird marriage; I often found myself thinking "Huh?" as I read.
Also, as I've complained about the detective genre elsewhere - including a review of Chandler's "The Long Goodbye", just so it's clear I'm faulting them all the way to the top - the endless drawing room conversations, with endless cigarettes being lit and endless drinks being consumed, get tiresome. As does the finding of a sadistic psychokiller hiding beneath the manicured lawns and well-decorated mansions of suburbia.
That said, there was still a fair amount of merit in this. I liked it better than the other Medway novel I read. It does evoke West Africa well, and Medway's relationship with German aid worker Heike renders his character less two-dimensional.