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Saturday, 6 April 2013
‘Capital Punishment’ by Robert Wilson
If you like dense, complex and internationally widespread thrillers, then Capital Punishment is for you. As nearly every schoolboy knows, Robert Wilson won the Crime Writers' Association's Gold Dagger award for A Small Death in Lisbon; The Blind Man of Serville was as good in my opinion, if not better. And so are the books before and after these.
Now comes Capital Punishment Alyshia, the daughter of a former Bollywood actor and now multi-millionaire is kidnapped. Her distraught parents wait for the ransom demand – but it never comes. So what are the kidnappers really after? Is the snatch for political reasons? For revenge? Terrorist manoeuvring? The story moves between London and Mumbai, and each time you think you've sussed out what it's all about, Wilson comes up with an alternative explanation, and moves on, carrying you with him.
There is almost a touch of farce about the way the incredibly self-possessed Alyshia handles her kidnapping, and then the subsequent one as she is kidnapped from her kidnappers, and is then kidnapped again. But this is not a funny book, though it has some amusing exchanges between Skin and Dan, one of the sets of kidnappers – and both, like all the characters in the book, so well-drawn that you feel sure you've met them somewhere before. There are a great many characters, on both sides of the moral spectrum, but it's worth keeping up the concentration factor in order to identify them each time they appear.
A parallel sub-plot concerns the daughter of kidnap negotiator, Charlie Boxer, who also goes missing. There are many contemporary terrorist references, and a high body count – though very little overt violence. As the pace increases towards the end of the book, the plot – or plots -- become more and more gripping. Unputdownable.
Reviewer: Susan Moody
Robert Wilson was born in 1957. When he was six his father, an Air Force officer, was posted to France, which gave him the bug for foreign travel. He went to a French school and learned to love mussels. He was then sent away to school in England because his education was all over the place. He entered a brutal world, which gave him a lifelong interest in fascist regimes. By the age of eight he says he knew all about terror, consequences, punishment and mental torture as well as defiance, resistance and the bond of friendship. But he did have a wonderful English teacher who taught him how to write haikus. He then spent three years reading English at St Edmund Hall, Oxford. In the first long vacation he went around America on a Greyhound bus, and the following year with three friends drove from London to Katmandu via Afghanistan and Iran in an old Dutch post office van. He left Oxford with a degree and a love of American literature and went to Greece to run archaeological tours on the island of Crete for a year. Back in London he took the first job that was offered to him, in a ship broking company specialising in gas transportation. A year later he married. He has since lived in London, but moved to Portugal, where he started writing novels.
Susan Moody was born in Oxford is the principal nom de plume of Susan Elizabeth Donaldson, née Horwood, a British novelist best known for her suspense novels. She is a former Chairman of the Crime Writer's Association, served as World President of the International Association of Crime Writers, and was elected to the prestigious Detection Club. Susan Moody has given numerous courses on writing crime fiction and continues to teach creative writing in England, France, Australia, the USA and Denmark. In addition to her many stand alone books, Susan has written two series, on featuring PI Penny Wanawake (seven books) and a series of six books featuring bridge player Cassie Swan.