Jimmy Gilroy is an out of work journalist, making ends meet by freelancing. When he’s offered a contract to write a biography of Susie Monaghan, a celebrity actress who died in a helicopter accident three years previously, he jumps at the prospect. Not long after starting the project he receives a phone call warning him to drop the assignment. The call has the opposite effect to that intended. Across the city, Larry Bolger, the former Taoiseach is in a state. Out of office and at a loose end, the discovery of a body in the Wicklow Mountains has him worried, as it does Dave Conway, a property developer who funded his construction projects with the sale of a copper mine in Congo. Meanwhile in that country, a private security contractor escorting a US senator with presidential ambitions, J.J. Rundle, loses the plot, killing a number of civilians, the senator’s hand being crushed in the incident. The last thing Bolger, Conway or Rundle want is for Gilroy to discover the real reason for Susie Monaghan’s death.
Bloodland is a political thriller. It’s connected to Glynn’s last novel, Winterland, by a couple of characters – Larry Bolger and James Vaughan, a businessman who also pulls political strings at the highest levels in the US administration. The story is ambitious in its scope, connecting together characters, business deals and incidents on three continents – Congo, Ireland, UK, Italy and the US. The focus on resource extraction, the new scramble for Africa, business and political corruption, and private security companies is fascinating, and Glynn does a good job of highlighting the various issues without it swamping the reader with details to the detriment of the plot and pace. Indeed, the plot is well constructed, linking together all the various elements and actors, and the story seemed possible and credible (often one of the problems of political thrillers). However, for me, the unfolding was a little too straightforward in that Jimmy Gilroy doesn’t seem to have to work too hard to piece things together and there’s no real sense he’s in a lot of danger until near the end. For example, there are three confessional moments in the book, which all happen with little to no prompting or fighting from Gilroy. In some ways this is necessary otherwise the book would have to be substantially longer and it’s already tying together a complex weave of strands. The effect though was to slightly underplay the potential tension, though there’s more than enough to make Bloodland a real page turner. Regardless of these observations the book is a great read – it has a nice, quick pace, Glynn’s prose is expressive and easy on the eye, there’s a good range of interesting characters, and it’s topical and informative. As political thrillers go, Bloodland is above average fare and well worth a read. I’m very much looking forward to reading the third book in the lose trilogy, Graveland, when it’s published.