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Saturday, April 11, 2009

Bait. Nick Brownlee. Piatkus Books. (2008)

A enjoyable thriller set in Kenya that makes the most of its location. When a local criminal is washes up on the beach at Mombasa the stage is set for a very engaging story with a large and varied cast, a thoughtful plot , well paced reveals and a solid pay off. Nick Brownlee has pulled of a difficult feat, the story is set in an unusual location, Mombasa and the location is more that just set dressing. The environment of both the city and Kenya itself are critical to the story, the actors would not be credible on another stage, Mombasa is one of the chief protagonists in the book and it is all the better for it.
The author has a gift for swift and clear characterisation so that a very large cast, with a lot of secondary players are introduced and none are a distraction, they all add strongly to the flavour of the book. With about half the book being devoted to set up this is important if interest is to be maintained before the plot mechanics really start to kick in. As the cast are a lively lot they are able to create and sustain enjoyment and curiosity and in the second half the investment is repaid handsomely as they find themselves credibly enmeshed in a very unpleasant set of events.
One of the nice aspects of the book is that the central villain is as dangerous as he should be, he provides clear motive force for the actions of others and is never just a bogeyman, he is clever and dedicated. The other villains are just as thoughtfully drawn, none are stupid which makes them a genuine threat. Jake Moore, an ex-policeman from England now a charter boat captain and Daniel Jouma a Mombasa detective are engaging and fallible, honest without being sanctimonious. Martha Bently is something of an innovation, a credible female character in a thriller who is neither a super villain nor a victim. I imagine this is the first entry in a series, I am looking forward to the next one.

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