Monday, September 17, 2007

Kevin Wignall's masterpiece on European crisis

An epic title, isn't it? But I think it's true: Kevin Wignall's Who Is Conrad Hirst? is a masterpiece of new crime writing and it's about European crisis.

I got the advanced reader's copy from Kevin who wanted to know whether there are any Finnish publishers who might be interested in this sort of thing. I said sure and gave him some names. It would be criminal to leave this unpublished in Finnish. The publisher - Simon & Schuster - advertises the book as new Jason Bourne or something to that effect. Kevin himself wrote in his e-mail that he thinks the book is more like Graham Greene. He's right: Who is Conrad Hirst? is This Gun for Hire for the 21st century. Wignall's book has also the same international feel that is so prevalent in the thrillers of the thirties.
Conrad Hirst is both a sociopath and a killer for hire, just like Greene's Raven. He has no feelings, but his last job made him want to get out of the business. So he decides to hunt down and kill all the four people who know him and his doings. It turns out pretty rapidly he's got it all wrong and several dead people, including his former boss, are found killed or missing.

The book deals on many things and does it satisfactorily despite the fact it's only about 200 pages. Conrad started his killing business in Yugoslavia where he thought he could be the new Robert Capa, but he saw pretty soon there was no way one could be a hero in Yugoslavia. It's obvious that the whole new generation went to Yugoslavia only to get kicks, not for any cause or ideas about better world. (This was seen also in Finland in the figure of Marco Casagrande, who fought in Yugoslavia and wrote a book called Mostarin tien liftarit/The Hitchers at the Mostar Road in 1997 about his experiecens in the war.)

I had some minor quibbles in the end, when Conrad finally meets someone in charge, but there was also a very nice twist that gave the book a whole new purpose. It was pretty hard to notice, but it's there.
Check the book out. It's out in November. There will also be a film based on the book - at least I sincerely hope so.


Kevin Wignall said...

Juri, thanks for such a great review - it means a lot coming from you. The film seems to be progressing well, so fingers crossed - but of course, everyone should read the book first (!).

Juri said...

Kevin, you're welcome. I meant to put a lot of other things in there too, but then the situation at home got out of hand and I was called to help (with Kauto, our three-year old rascal).