Review: A Song for Nemesis; Len Harper

Engaging political thriller- 3.5 stars

Source- sent to me via the author, free of charge in the hope that I would review it

Published in July 2012

E-book edition. 274 pages.

A thriller appeals to me the most when it gets straight into the action, no messing about. This political thriller is definitely along those lines: within a couple of pages you are pulled directly into the drama- there’s a shooting in an auditorium in Britain, and then you find yourself immersed in the upheaval of war-torn El Salvador. The two events are inexplicably connected somewhere… but how?

One minute Enrique Macqui seemingly has it all: he’s a successful film maker and engaged to a famous singer, Lena. His world comes tumbling down around him after her brutal murder and instead of facing up to things, he escapes to El Salvador on a covert assignment for the rebel forces. He can’t hide forever though, and upon meeting Senica, a peasant woman in El Salvador’s hills, he is inspired to return to London to put his life back together- and finish making a film that will expose utter corruption in some very high places- not knowing the deadly risk he faces to his own life…

Initially I found the writing style of this novel to be a bit pared down, with no unnecessary words expended, which took some getting used to. I’m a reader that likes that extra detail added to the proceedings, but found here that the pacey narrative added a tension and grittiness to the storyline, which I appreciated. The plot moves quickly and engages the reader.

The characters were well drawn in this book, with their own distinctive voices and quirks. I loved Enrique’s determined sense of decency and Senica’s ambition. The secondary characters too, had a part to play- even bratty orphaned boy Jorges. I was fascinated by the shadowy Raoul and found the facets of the story with he and his wife and son to be very intriguing. I was never quite sure of who was good or bad in this novel, so in that respect I was kept on my toes. It was always in the back of my mind that there would be a twist somewhere.

The settings themselves were well portrayed and added a vibrant sense of place to the story. It is evident that the author has carried out research into El Salvador, as small aspects of the culture were interspersed within the plot and I found the descriptions of the small mountain village to be very evocative. A particular scene set in a morgue in the UK was also very powerfully written and really showcases the writing capabilities of this author.

One aspect about this book that I didn’t enjoy was the initial flurry of romance between two of the protagonists. I suppose I could get over how quickly it happened, bearing in mind that one of the characters involved had been recently bereaved, but the dialogue exchanged during their first encounter just felt overtly false. The endearments and the speech used admittedly made me wince a bit. I found this settled down as the plot progressed though, and again that comes down to a matter of personal taste.

All in all, this was an engaging political thriller and a solidly written debut that held my attention throughout. I would like to see what this author comes up with next.

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