A debut novel revolves around one man’s attempts to uncover the circumstances surrounding his father’s murder in a violence-torn Third World country.
Like some strange adult fairy tale, Verheul’s book takes place in an unnamed tropical country filled with such mythical-sounding municipalities as City by the Water. It is a land peopled by characters like Captain Christmas, V6, Skipper Boutique, and Colonel Neptune. When Johan’s banker son, Oliver, first arrives, he finds everyone to be friendly and helpful; they seem genuinely sad about his father’s death. But as time passes, Oliver realizes that they all have their own motives; everyone wants money from him; and no one can or wants to really explain what happened. Lost in the exigencies of protocol, politics, and public relations, Oliver tries to follow the money trail. He learns his father had an unusually large amount of money in the bank. He discovers that Johan was the lead man on the Disarmament and Stabilization Program, a scheme to trade farm implements and other domestic items to the terrorist followers of Christmas in exchange for turning in their guns. Oliver also flirts with a woman who may or may not have been involved romantically with his father. Meanwhile in the U.S., Davey, an unemployed gun fanatic, learns about the DSP. Convinced this is a plot to take away everyone’s guns, Davey heads to the unnamed country on the dime of a barroom of fellow gun enthusiasts to convince Christmas he should keep his weapons. In this story that is part mystery, part thriller, and part introspective examination of personal values, Verheul has a real eye for how money and corruption affect the day-to-day life in a Third World nation. The author establishes believable characters, humor, and pathos in his well-paced tale through concise and efficient writing (“Christmas often wondered how the army had never been able to find them. They had tried, though. They flew helicopters over the forest—that is, if they could pay for fuel—and sent out patrols to find their base. But the forest had become their ally”). Verheul also manages to bring the distinctive cast of characters to several individual and credible epiphanies. This lively and enjoyable read should appeal to those who prefer their action thrillers with a literary twist and those who take theirs neat.
An engaging tale about a banker’s struggles to solve a family mystery.