Orenda Books is a brand new publisher launched by Karen Sullivan. It’s great that new presses are emerging in this changing literary climate and Karen has pledged to publish six books this year. She’s going to have an eclectic list and I’m particularly looking forward to reading her Scandinavian crime authors Ragnar Jonasson and Gunnar Staalesen. Paul Hardisty is a new writer who has used his experiences of working in the Middle East to write a thriller about corruption in the oil industry. It’s not a subject matter that would normally appeal but it turned out to be an excellent read.
Claymore Straker is an engineer working in Yemen who is kidnapped at gunpoint along with Abdulkader, the driver who once saved his life. Clay is informed of instances of children near oil wells who are dying of a mysterious illness that appears to affect only the young. He is released but his driver kept as hostage. Straker must investigate the sickness or Abdulkader will be killed. But, as he digs deeper, his life is threatened by those seeking to protect their financial and commercial interests.
The quote on the front cover of The Abrupt Physics of Dying describes the book as ‘gripping’ and I think this sums up the narrative. Right from the beginning there’s a sense of menace and helplessness at the situation that Clay finds himself in. Given the political situation in the Yemen at the moment it could be hard to believe that the kidnappers would trust a western businessman to investigate what is happening to the children in their villages. However, Hardisty does well to convince us of the desperation and pragmatism of the men holding Abdulkader hostage.
I was a big fan, in 2013, of Terry Hayes’s I Am Pilgrim and I hadn’t up to now read a conspiracy thriller which came close to it in terms of quality. But Hardisty’s book was an excellent read with a similar sweep across the politics of international money-making.
Thanks to Ordenda Books for my review copy.