Once again Ben Webster is reluctantly dragged into an apparent squabble amongst billionaires in Jones' (The Silent Oligarch, 2012) latest.
Webster works for the corporate investigation company, Ikertu Consulting. Darius Qazai, London-based refugee Iranian owner of Tabriz Asset Management, needs their services. A major business deal has gone bottoms up because of negative information turned up by the buyer. Qazai wants Ikertu to search his background and prove the information false. A simple phone call unearths the rat: rumors circulate that Qazai was responsible for the theft of the Sargon relief, a half-ton eighth-century Assyrian stone art object looted from Baghdad post-invasion. This is Jones’ second thriller involving Webster and Ikertu, and he takes time early on to offer an interesting character sketch of the CIA-for-billionaires founder, Ike Hammer. Jones is superb too in presenting off-beat personalities, one being the robotic and enigmatic assistant to Qazai, a French lawyer named Yves Senechal, “small, precise-looking...slight, so pale that the sun seemed to shine through him.” Another intriguingly left-of-center character is Webster’s go-to guy in Dubai, Fletcher Constance, an American banker gone native, “linen suits…extravagant neckwear…antique beard and the solid boom of [a] rhythmic voice.” Despite his connection to an art dealer murdered in Iran, Qazai, “vain, slippery, callously self-assured,” has a bigger problem, one that links his fortune to Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. Pursuing profits from funds invested post-revolution, the cruel and deadly Guards' VEVAK intelligence agent Zahak Rad unleashes mayhem and murder. Qazai’s family pays a price too steep, and then Rad threatens Webster’s wife and family. Webster escapes bruised and battered from a deadly confrontation with Rad in Marrakech, retreating to London and then Dubai where he snatches a Pyrrhic victory with a successful-enough extortion double cross. Ambivalent as ever about the ethics of the superrich and his part in solving their problems, Webster proves to be the ethically troubled anti-Bond.
A more-than-worthy sequel with deft, complex and believable plotting, tense, gut-wrenching action, and classy literary writing.