Ali Karim is a Board Member of Bouchercon [The World Crime & Mystery Convention] and co-chaired programming for Bouchercon Raleigh, North Carolina in 2015. He is Assistant Editor of Shots eZine, British correspondent for The Rap Sheet and writes and reviews for many US magazines & Ezines.
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 Conway 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’  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.