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Two Reviews of BLOODLAND by Alan Glynn

Alan Glynn’s Bloodland hits bookstores in the UK today and in the US in January. We’ve been given permission by Bookgeeks.co.uk and Shots Magazine to reprint their reviews of this timely international thriller.

From Bookgeeks. Review by Mike Stafford.

Bloodland is the third thriller from Alan Glynn, author of The Dark Fields (now known as Limitless since being brought to life on screen by Robert De Niro and Bradley Cooper). Where The Dark Fields was, as Glynn calls it, “a pharmaceutical Faust,” Bloodland is a far more complex affair, taking the reader from recession-blighted Ireland, to the halls of economic power in Manhattan, to the sanity-sapping violence of the Congo, telling a timeless but contemporary tale of greed, lies and conspiracy.

The tale opens with Jimmy Gilroy, a young journalist, taking on an investigation into the death of Susie Monaghan, a z-list celebrity killed some years ago in a helicopter crash.  As Gilroy’s investigation leads him deeper into a web of intrigue, Glynn offers up brief, punchy chapters, which ensure a tearing pace while teasing the reader with seemingly disparate chunks of information, ultimately revealed to be part of a horrifying but utterly plausible whole.  As an exercise in conspiracy thriller writing, Bloodland is straight from the top drawer.

This is no bog-standard thriller though, and what sets Glynn aside from the crowd is his masterful evocation of the zeitgeist.  Glynn’s characters, while not markedly complex, are emblematic of their era.  Susie Monaghan, the deceased starlet, was vapid, conceited, lurching from disaster to disaster, a product of a tabloid culture that prizes celebrity over attainment.  Larry Bolger, the alcoholic former Taoiseach (I believe it’s pronounced “teeshock”), is an ethically indifferent politician with little genuine power.  Jimmy Gilroy, the closest thing to a hero in the piece, is a journalist easily persuaded to abandon idealism in favour of advancement.

Beyond the characters though, Glynn paints a portrait of the 21st Century thus far.  Western civilisation’s raison d’etre is no longer to create, simply to possess.  Ex-military men are dumped unceremoniously back on the streets of the nations they risked their lives to defend.  The democratic process is largely lip service to the ideals of a beleaguered public; democracy is, in reality, oligarchy.  An industrialised China lurks in the background, an economic behemoth still hungry for more –

“’They send people over,’ Kimbela continues, ‘who will live in huts and survive on a bowl of rice a day.  You people?’… ‘You people have to have hot dogs and sodas and Taco Bell and reality TV shows and every kind of shit.  So the result is, you are being left behind.’ He pauses. ‘You have…’ He clicks his fingers. ‘Yes, fallen asleep at the wheel.’”

In addition to politics and economics, Glynn covers the functions of private military contractors, the realities of mining in the Congo, UN procedural detail and much more.  He writes with a near omniscience that makes Bloodland an extremely convincing account of our times.  When my six month old daughter asks what life was like during the turbulent year of her birth, she will be handed not a bundle of newspapers or a web address, but a copy of Bloodland .

Overall, Bloodland is a fantastic thriller, perfectly plotted, credible, and superbly paced.  It is also much more than that, a snapshot of a pivotal period in history, explored from numerous angles and geographic locations.  It is written with enviable intelligence by an author who, on the strength of this outing, has much more critical acclaim to come.

From Shots Crime and Thrille eZine. Review by Ali Karim.

There is something comforting in these troubled times when reading a conspiracy [theory] thriller such as Alan Glynn’s third novel Bloodland . The comfort stems from a belief that perhaps there is some dark logic to the events the media paint in our daily headlines, and that perhaps the economic crisis that has enveloped the globe has hidden stories that remain obscured from view by men lurking behind the curtain. That neatly defines the premise in Glynn’s masterful throwback to the 1970’s wave of conspiracy thrillers such as James Grady’s ‘Six Days of the Condor’ [truncated by three days, for the film], Richard Condon’s ‘The Manchurian Candidate’ and ‘Winter Kills’, as well as Alan J Pakula’s disturbing film ‘The Parallax View’.

When Jimmy Gilroy, a journalist suffering hard-times thanks to the economic meltdown in Dublin [Ireland] is assigned to write a biography of the young Irish media-diva, and TV celebrity Susie Monaghan, he grabs the opportunity like a drowning man. Not because it is an interesting project, as it is basically ‘tabloid fare’, but because of economic necessity due to the cutbacks in journalism that have him chasing any freelance work that he can find. The issue that perplexes him is the helicopter crash that claimed the life of Susie Monaghan and her fellow passengers [and pilot] on that fateful private flying excursion.

Glynn’s narrative has what seem disparate strands such as a US political dynasty involved in a mining venture in war-torn Congo, an Irish property tycoon Dave Conwa about to face financial Armageddon, the former Irish Taoiseach [aka Prime Minister / President] Larry Bolger mentally ‘lost and adrift’, following his removal from power vis-à-vis post-economic meltdown, a UN official caught between his sexual needs and that of the responsibilities of office, a US security contractor and their [non-accountable] activities, a shallow grave in the Wicklow mountains – and right in the epi-centre and hidden from view is the involvement of a PR company using ‘perception management’ to miss-direct a secret that would have a ripple effect that could destroy the careers and lives of some very powerful figures.

Due to the diverse angles that open Bloodland , there is an general sense of unease in the reader, as the global economic crisis forms the realistic landscape – making this novel read more like non-fiction, akin to Woodward and Bernstein’s ‘All The President’s Men’. Not a difficult feat for former journalist Glynn, but what is the remarkable aspect to the task, is Glynn’s ability to inject empathy into even the darkest of men [and women] that lurk like chess pieces on this blooded board.

Jimmy Gilroy is torn in his loyalties to his late [and respected] journalist father’s heritage, his growing fondness for Susie Monaghan’s sister Maria, the allure of ghost-writing the former Irish Taoiseach Larry Bolger’s autobiography [a job sent Gilroy’s way by the mysterious PR Guru Phil Sweeney], and a feeling that something is not quite ‘right’ about the accidental helicopter crash that claimed drug-addicted media-diva Susie Monaghan’s life and that of the others that took that fatal flight.

Glynn interweaves the [seemingly] surface banality of today’s media with the high powered corruption, collusion, and conspiracy that lurk beneath those very headlines manufactured for the masses as a ‘perceptual construct’, one devised and manipulated by those who have the power to miss-direct purposefully.

Glynn’s ability to take these big themes and distil them down to the seedy personal stories, and motivations of the protagonists is the key to why this novel hypnotizes the reader. Like his previous work ‘Winterland’ [2009] and his debut in 2001, the CWA Dagger nominated The Dark Fields  [filmed recently as ‘Limitless’], this new work provides plenty for the reader in terms of introspection and cerebral thought. Many have termed Bloodland as the political thriller of the year, and perhaps they are right as the furious pace wraps the reader into a trap, one that requires introspection and a curiosity to investigate what lurks beneath our headlines a little more closely, not unlike an Adam Curtis polemical documentary, and equally surreal.