Missing billions in Iraq, a murdered grifter and a missing banker in London, an assassin, a trio of terrorists and shadowy figures pulling all the strings – a complex fast-paced thriller.
The Wreckage is Michael Robotham’s seventh book featuring ex-cop Vincent Ruiz and psychologist Joe O’Loughlin. In this one, Ruiz takes centre stage when he is scammed by a couple of grifters who steal, among other things, a precious heirloom belonging to his dead wife that is supposed to be a gift on his daughter’s wedding day. With the wedding fast approaching, he sets off to track the girl, Holly Knight, only to find himself sheltering her when they both become embroiled in something much bigger and nastier. Her boyfriend, and fellow grifter, has been tortured and murdered in their flat and a couple of ‘heavies’ start following his, and Holly’s, every move.
Meanwhile, in Iraq, journalist Luca Terracini is investigating a string of suspicious bank robberies and, with the help of UN auditor Daniela Garner, begins to uncover fraud on a grand scale: billions of US dollars disappearing into reconstruction funds for projects that never get off the ground.
To complicate matters further there is a missing banker in London, a black hole in his bank’s finances and a very pregnant wife, Elizabeth North, who believes her husband is being made the scapegoat and is determined to discover his whereabouts and clear his name.
Oh, and there’s also a psychotic assassin called “The Courier” who you definitely wouldn’t want to meet in a dark alley and a trio of Muslim men who he is training for a deadly mission.
By about a third of the way through, it begins to feel that there are too many strands and too many characters to keep track of but Robotham skilfully weaves the story so that you never lose track of one strand for too long. As the story progresses, he gradually draws each individual story together so that, right up to the end, you’re still guessing.
Robotham’s characters are believably human: flawed and colourful. Some previous history is referred to but not laboured over. I’ve only read one of the preceding novels (Bleed for Me – also very good) and it didn’t detract from the story that I didn’t always know the full history of the characters. The Wreckage stands well on its own.
Like Bleed for Me, The Wreckage makes a point of depicting a world that is not black and white, where a success on one hand can mean a failure on the other. Its conclusion leaves you examining your own judgement and asking the question: “What would I have done?”
One very small niggle (and actually it’s more of a personal bug-bear than criticism of style) is that the entire novel is written in third person, present tense. It makes for quite an unusual narrative and I found, during the less pace-y sections of the novel, that it really grated. But most of the time, I was too caught up in the action and the characters to notice.