A raucous debut novel of sex and politics set in postwar but still chaotic Sarajevo in the early 21st century.
“Exchange-rate” is a precise term here, for sex becomes a commodity like guns or beer and is used to get information and advantage (and hence power). The situation in Sarajevo in 2002 is, to say the least, free-wheeling, and New Zealander Frito is convinced there is a fortune to be made. He entices his good buddy Bannerman to the city by revealing two aces, as it were, up his sleeve: the possibility of making a killing in the Bosnian beer market and a developing relationship with the intriguing Clare Leischman. In Sarajevo Bannerman immediately meets and is smitten by the beautiful Clare, a Swiss lawyer who’s in the city to prosecute Serbian war criminals, and for a while he agonizes whether to move in on Frito’s girl. Eventually, however, a combination of love and lust helps Bannerman overcome his scruples—though for a while both men share Clare. The machinations of Frito and Bannerman are set against the much more serious back story of sex slavery, male prostitution and institutionalized rape—and the two friends find themselves sucked into this grimmer and more pressing environment. They befriend/rescue Sufi Child from his status as rent boy and get caught up in tracking down Petar Rankovic, a war criminal wanted for crimes against humanity. They’re aided by a motley assortment of UN troops, soldiers of fortune and ne’er-do-wells. Clare, of course, is thrilled, because Rankovic is one of the big fish she’s wanted to haul in front of the war crimes tribunal at The Hague, but his capture becomes more problematic when it turns out other forces might want to pay to have him released.
Leveritt manages a difficult balancing act, using a rollicking and sometimes bawdy tone to examine serious issues of power politics, and he does it brilliantly.