The elusiveness and meaning of truth lie at the core of this roman à clef about the Pan Am plane bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.
In that tragedy, Alan Tealing, a professor of literature and narrator of the story, lost his wife and young daughter, so one might conjecture that he would welcome the conviction of Khalil Khazar, the alleged perpetrator. Yet Tealing has his doubts, doubts that come to the fore when Ted Nilsen, a mysterious CIA operative, shows up one cold winter’s day on Tealing’s doorstep. Nilsen is dying of cancer and wants to give Tealing one last opportunity to find out the truth, a philosophical stance to which Tealing is both personally and philosophically committed. The testimony that convicted Khazar came from Martin Parroulet, the cab driver who had driven him to Heathrow. Since, shortly after Khazar’s appeal was rejected, the cab driver disappeared, it was hypothesized that his testimony was tainted because it had been “bought” (for $2 million) and that he was living somewhere under a witness protection program. Toward the end of their long conversation, Nilsen hands Tealing a piece of paper with an address for Parroulet, and in the pursuit of truth, the professor leaves Scotland to find him. Parroulet has taken a new identity, Parr, and is living in Sheildston, an obscure outpost in Australia. While there, Tealing makes contact with Parr’s wife and, in the climax of the novel, has a long conversation with the reluctant Parr only due to the fact that Tealing had arrived opportunely to help save Parr’s house from raging brushfires. By the end, Tealing gets close to the truth—and has an epiphany that might be as far as anyone can get.
Robertson writes brilliantly about the quest for truth and hints at the possibility of personal redemption and transformation.