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Monday, 15 June 2015

‘Behind the Text’ 9. ’The Awkward Package’

‘Behind the Text’ Part 9. ’The Awkward Package’

They seek him here, they seek him there

’The Awkward Package’ (2010) - Book 5 in the series - taxes the ingenuity of Jonas Forbes to its maximum. The novel is set in 1958 Western Europe. The plot is simple: Jonas is hired to escort Prince Abdullah bin Hassan, the cousin of Feisal, the murdered King of Iraq, from Rome to London. There are two problems: the Mafia has accepted a contract on the head of Prince Abdullah and the Prince, spoilt & mean-spirited, is so uncooperative as to be labelled by Jonas ‘the Awkward Package’.

An initial attack in Tuscany is foiled when Jonas gets the drop on the 3 Mafiosi, killing them all. This so terrifies the Prince he's cowered for some time but the spell is broken when they fall in with an attractive blonde, Sandra.  The Mafia want revenge & are prepared to pass the contract on to the Unione Corse or anybody able to kill the Prince AND his protector. So the chase is on, using the railway systems of western Europe and more. Jonas finds both help and hindrance in good supply and the thriller delivers almost continuous action.
Vanessa Clarke, the' General Factotum' for the Jonas Forbes ‘Enquiry Agent’,  is called in to help, joining them in Switzerland and proving herself a life-saver – literally! Another point in her favour is soon becoming just as irritating to the Prince as her boss. DI Wyatt manages to help in the background, largely by pulling strings, despite language problems.

In this story the reader may link my use of short episodes (even more than usual) involving scene-switches to provide several cliff-hangers with writers such as Jeffrey Deever & James Patterson. Both are strong favourites of mine and I found that style the only way of dealing with such a fast-paced story. For me one of the major delights of writing this book was the research required. Perhaps the organisation of the Mafia may be ready to hand but not the1958 structure of the French DST or the timetables for the railway system of Italy, Switzerland or France.

Again one of the pleasures for myself, as a READER, involves the minor characters: the rejected wife of the Prince; Marcello De Luca, a bullying Mafioso; Alphonse Mainteneau, the courteous stranger; and a parade of awkward bureaucrats and truculent gangsters.

Does Jonas successfully deliver the package? Let’s just say that later he’d claim a 100% career success rate with a straight face.

Next time religion and terrorism – but in 1959.

Bob Hyslop

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