Monday, March 30, 2009

Lords of Corruption - Kyle Mills

I think I’ve mentioned before that I don’t read a lot of big international thrillers, but I do like a good one every now and then. LORDS OF CORRUPTION is set mostly in Africa, in (to quote Woody Allen), “a fictional but real-sounding country”. It’s a country plagued by tribal violence and ruled by the iron fist of a military dictator. Throw in poverty and disease and you’ve got a place that needs a lot of help.

A young man named Josh Hagarty sets out to provide some of that help, although actually Josh is just interested in a job. He has an engineering degree and an MBA, but he’s also an ex-con because of his inadvertent part in an armed robbery when he was a teenager. He has trouble at home, too, with an alcoholic, dying mother and a younger sister who wants to go to college, so when he’s offered a job with a charity that runs agricultural projects in Africa, he can’t turn down the opportunity.

Unfortunately (and you knew this was going to be the case), things don’t work out like Josh expects them to, and he soon realizes that the so-called charity is really just a front for an international criminal conspiracy. (This isn’t a spoiler. The book’s title sort of gives it away, and the author doesn’t really withhold what’s going on from the reader, anyway.) Josh doesn’t necessarily want to bring down the bad guys. He just wants to survive the various dangerous situations in which he finds himself, but that means that he has to take on some very powerful enemies.

The first half of this novel is a little slow, what with all the set-up going on, but once the real action starts in the second half, it never lets up for very long. Author Kyle Mills’ style is pretty simple and straightforward, and that’s the way he keeps the pace moving, straight forward. Not only that, but he springs a number of surprises along the way, not so much in the plot itself but in how the characters react to it. Things happen that I wasn’t expecting at all, and that’s always welcome. A lot of times, I know how a book is going to play out well before I get to the end, but that’s not the case here. Another thing that LORDS OF CORRUPTION has in its favor is its length. At approximately 90,000 words, it’s long enough to have some real heft to it, but it never feels bloated, the way so many contemporary thrillers do.

I thought I had read other books by Kyle Mills in the past, but looking over the list of his titles, I don’t see any I recognize, so I guess this is the first one I’ve read by him. But it won’t be the last, because I found LORDS OF CORRUPTION to be a very entertaining novel with just enough social and political musings to balance out the part that’s a top-notch adventure yarn.

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