Oh the sense of loss on turning over the last page of the perfectly pitched The Ignorance of Blood, the final book in Robert Wilson’s Falcón quartet. I remember it well. To a degree, this loss was alleviated by excitement at the thought of what might come next, and a new series was promised. This has now arrived with Capital Punishment and its new series character, Charles Boxer. All the hallmarks of CWA Gold Dagger-winning Wilson’s writing are present: this makes for intelligent reading; with depth, emotion, strong characterisation and good plotting.
Boxer is ex-British army and ex-Metropolitan Police. Having then moved into security in the private sector, working for the leading company in kidnap negotiation worldwide, Boxer now supplies his specialised skills in a freelance capacity. And for those clients privileged to be in-the-know, Boxer offers a rare additional service.
In Capital Punishment, Boxer returns to London to the case of Alyshia D’Cruz, kidnapped on her way home after a drunken night out in Covent Garden with friends and work colleagues. Approaching her mid-twenties, Alyshia is the daughter of former Bollywood actor and now self-made Indian billionaire, Frank D’Cruz and his former wife, literary agent Isabel Marks. Where Marks may pursue a normally uneventful life, D’Cruz is considered by some to be a ‘…vastly rich ex-actor, who was well worth envying, despising and resenting.’
Quickly, Boxer identifies issues with the progression of the kidnapping, suggesting the kidnappers are more interested in tormenting Alyshia’s parents than in achieving financial gain. With Alyshia more at risk from torture and murder, Boxer needs to quickly ascertain the motivation behind the kidnapping…
‘What about the long term stuff, for big money?’ ‘You mean the new tax on the rich?’ said Nelson, stabbing his fried egg viciously, as if it were the eye of a banker. ‘Make them pay for all the shit they’re putting us through. Steal their kids and give them an alternative education.’
The plotting of Capital Punishment beautifully elicits the highly topical from within our contemporary world of international crime. Alyshia’s kidnapping is merely the sharp flame that catches the eye. Soon, the story guides us through the funnel into the expanding hot air balloon, taking in gangs and drugs; the machinations of global finance and corruption in an era of recession; terrorism and counter-terrorism; Islamic fundamentalism; sex trafficking; personal grudges and revenge.
Boxer makes an attractive protagonist and an intriguing character. You’d want him on your side even though he’s not perfect with his ‘rare additional service’. Skilfully setting up the series, Capital Punishment raises the question but does not conclude on whether this may prove to be Boxer’s Achilles heel.
Mirroring the D’Cruz family relationship finding itself under the microscope because of the kidnapping, we also learn of Boxer’s own family circumstances and his relationship with his spirited teenage daughter. All the family characters have scope for an enduring presence throughout the series.
With Capital Punishment Wilson again takes up the gauntlet as master of the intelligent thriller. With Charles Boxer we have an explosion of character in the scene of international crime and specifically kidnap negotiation. With all probability this will be one of your top thriller reads in 2013, so add it to your chocolates for Easter weekend.