The Eyewitness, by Stephen Leather

Jack Solomon is an ex-policeman, who now works agency in former Yugoslavia, identifying the remains of people who were killed in the war, in order to be able to notify their families, and provide evidence for war crimes tribunals, in the hope that the perpetrators can be brought to justice. When a lorry is recovered from a lake, and the bodies of twenty-six family members are found inside, something about the situation gets to Jack, and he determines to find out who was responsible, regardless of whether this falls inside his official remit.

I can't say I've read many books set in the Balkans so thought this might be interesting, although I guessed that this might turn out to be more of an informative read than a gripping story. But in fact the story turned out to be quite a good one. The action isn't restricted to the area around Kosovo: Jack pursues the only eyewitness to the atrocity to London and a fair amount of the story takes place there as he tries to track her down.

But the main theme of the story is not so much the Balkan conflict as the sex trafficking trade, which Jack becomes drawn into in his search. What Jack uncovers as the book progresses is an extremely seedy and unpleasant world populated by ruthless criminals, women working as sex-slaves, and disillusioned policemen.

Looking back on it, the story was perhaps a bit far-fetched, with Jack having hit-men sent to kill him in his London flat, and being involved in a shoot-out in the street with a couple of rival gangs. But it was all told with pace and I was happy to suspend disbelief.

I was quite impressed that Jack seemed to have quite an interesting back-story, but that it came out only piecemeal, rather than being presented as an integral part of the story. In fact it felt like Jack's previous adventures could have made a decent book in themselves, but - so far as I know - this is a one-off novel rather than part of a series (and I think it's best that way). In fact, looking now on Amazon I see Leather has done quite a few books (not about Jack Solomon) which is pretty encouraging, so I've just reserved Cold Kill from the library.

Completed : 07-Oct-2009 (audiobook)

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