John Penn, failed intelligence service clerk turned private investigator, leaps at the chance to infiltrate the former Yugoslavia for Mary Braddock, whose troubled adult daughter, Dorrie, a British citizen, was found dead in the war zone. Penn discovers conflicting reports: Mary describes her daughter as "horrid," a young woman who rarely missed a chance to hurt or humiliate; villagers of the Croat village where her body was found, however, remember an "angel" who stayed with the wounded, thereby losing her own life. As Penn's obsession to reconcile Dorrie's life draws him inexorably toward danger, so, too, is the listener forced to examine the insurmountable cruelty of a war fueled by generations of hatred. Who is the enemy here? The moral complexities baffle. Nigel Graham's superb reading carefully delineates each character, and his precise pronunciation of foreign words is a boon. This work of political intrigue belongs in all libraries.‘Terrill Persky, Naperville, Ill.
Seymour (The Running Target), who can stand comparison to Graham Greene, returns with another spirited, resonant thriller, this one focusing on Bosnia. The story is told mostly in flashback, as, in 1995, a British official reviews a file on a series of events that occurred in 1993. That year, the flashbacks relate, Bill Penn, a British government agent-turned-PI, is hired by Mary Braddock to find out the circumstances behind the death of her daughter in Yugoslavia; declared missing in 1991, the woman's body has recently been uncovered in a mass grave filled with the victims of an apparent massacre. Penn is determined to do more than just gather the facts behind the killing, though. He's going to try to get enough evidence to convict the man responsible‘and that evidence is exactly what certain elements in British intelligence also want him to get, in order to provide some badly needed PR leverage regarding the ongoing Bosnian conflict. Using this wheels-within-wheels frame, Seymour constructs a harshly detailed novel about a dirty little war, peopled with a wide variety of deeply etched characters and suffused with a nearly palpable sense of despair and weariness. At times, there's a preachiness to the repeated refrain of too many characters that the West knows little and cares less about the troubles in Bosnia, but that doesn't lessen the statement's truth; and truth‘particularly regarding the bitter price of courage and morally guided action‘lies at the heart of this astute and moving work. (Nov.)