Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Lords of Corruption

Africa has long been a setting for thriller/suspense writers. While the likes of Graham Greene and William Boyd have written cautionary tales of the dangers of Western complacency and arrogance in Africa, Frederick Forsyth, John Le Carre and Michael Crichton have set action oriented tales, with varying degrees of political message, on the continent. With Lords of Corruption, thriller writer Kyle Mills joins the latter group with a fast-paced tale involving a mysterious aid agency, a thuggish dicator and a dose of Southern Gothic.

Thanks to a unfortunate choice in his youth, MBA all-star Josh Hagarty can't get a job. So when he is approached by a secretive international aid agency to manage a project in Africa, he vacillates, but eventually decides to go, mostly because it gives him the chance to help his sister escape rural poverty and attend school.

Once in Africa, things rapidly become problematic. The project for which he is hired is beset by tribal arguments, menacing thugs and insufficient resources. Hagarty meets a few Westerners including an old Africa hand who serves as voice of cynical experience and a Swedish aid worker who represents fatalistic optimism.

The book's strength is the rapid pace, the escalating threats and the surprises Mills throws in along the way. There is also some commentary about the efficacy of international aid and the impact of the West on Africa here, but the focus is on the relentless development of the story. It makes for good, topical escapism.

No comments: