High finance in an era of globalization serves as the backdrop for Wiid’s debut thriller.
The evil at the center of this suspenseful tale is megalomaniac Bogdan Popov, a Russian gangster who makes himself over as a billionaire following the collapse of the Soviet Union, “in a few years becoming the richest man in Russia.” Popov doesn’t care whom he hurts from on high, including the other characters in this novel who get tangled up in his affairs. Leon Jacobs is a substance-abusing student majoring in journalism; after he’s kicked out of his university, he lands a job as a scuba instructor at an Egyptian resort where he has a brief affair with Sophia, Popov’s damaged heiress daughter. She makes an introduction that gets Leon a low-level job at her father’s firm in London, where Popov himself takes notice of him. Leon and Isabella van Graan, a South African lawyer, eventually publicize Popov’s dirty deeds, which paints a target on Leon’s back. Leon then escapes to South Africa, where he befriends Franklin Benjamin, a drug-addicted, low-level gangster whose brother was killed in a botched robbery. But trouble follows, leading to a bloody showdown between Popov’s mercenary forces and a handful of Franklin’s gangster buddies. Wiid adds a necessary air of authenticity to his novel with his detailed knowledge of international finance and his South African homeland. The only drawback is it’s not always easy to decipher his characters’ local slang from context alone (“We tried Tik a few times but didn’t like it. We stick with dagga, but only on occasion, we can stop when we want”). He crafts the redemptions of Leon, Sophia, Franklin, and Isabella, who all start as unlikable characters, so that they’re believable and natural. This, in turn, makes the fate of Popov and his mercenary enforcer, Sinovich, all the more fulfilling. The novel’s pace is slow in sections, but Wiid picks it up when it counts near the end. Overall, it’s a bumpy ride but a worthwhile journey.
A sturdy, intense adventure in which humanity wins out over greed.