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Seymour, Gerald - 'The Dealer and the Dead'
Paperback: 464 pages (May 2011) Publisher: Hodder Paperbacks ISBN: 0340918926

In an East Croatian village near Vukovar, the community have brought in a mine clearance company to remove the last remnants of munitions from their lands and they do that successfully. The farmer decides to prepare the reclaimed land for crop planting and as he is putting furrows in the land he discovers the bodies of four villagers who were killed in the troubles, eighteen years previously. The authorities are sent for and a pathologist painstakingly examines the four corpses. There is one at the bottom of the burial pit that is in much better condition than the three others that were thrown on top of it. This body, the pathologist discovers had a small folded note in the shirt breast pocket with the name "Harvey Gillott" and a phone number on it.

The police in questioning the villagers, discover that the deceased was the village teacher who in the absence of a priest was the most important person in the community. In 1991, he had made an agreement with an arms dealer Harvey Gillott that the village was to be supplied with arms to protect them from an imminent attack from their Serbian enemies. The evening before the expected date of the attack, the teacher and three others had gone to an agreed rendezvous to receive the arms, which the village had already paid for by a joint collection. The arms dealer didn't come and the villagers were almost all killed with very few survivors. Those that were killed were murdered with extreme cruelty.

In the present day the surviving villagers have very little but awful war wounds from the conflict and unspeakable memories and they feel that Harvey Gillott was the cause of all their misery. They decide to pay for a contract killer to wipe him out and that forms the basis of this very exciting story. How can they get such a person? There is a man in their community however who has been in prison and has friends on the other side of the law and they appeal to him for advice. Ultimately, a British contract killer is selected and paid in advance from the funds that have been collected amongst the surviving villagers.

Harvey Gillott has had a fairly successful life buying and selling international arms, but the pariah-like treatment by most of the civilised world for such men, means that he has few friends outside the business and must be very careful with his security at all times. He lives in fairly isolated circumstances in Portland on the South Coast in a large detached house with a garden. His wife used to keep busy and help with his office work in the first few years of their marriage, but since she had their child, a girl, she has remained at home and since they moved to their isolated house she has been rather bored and has been having a sort of Lady Chatterley type fling with the gardener!

Various international security bodies learn on the grapevine of the intended assassination of Harvey Gillott and put their tuppence into the mixture and various decisions are made and the police are mobilised to protect Harvey, if he is agreeable. Also an anti arms-campaigner, also hears of it and decides to come and make it known to all of the neighbours of Harvey what he does to earn a crust for the table. The morality of the arms trade is discussed between the characters at length. Another side plot is the background to the contract killer whom the Balkan villagers have hired. All in all, a very plot-driven but extremely original story which really stands out in terms of entertainment quality from his peers.

Gerald Seymour was a reporter at ITN for fifteen years, where his first assignment was covering the Great Train Robbery in 1963. He later covered events in Vietnam, Borneo, Aden, the Munich Olympics, Israel and Northern Ireland. Seymour's first novel was the acclaimed thriller HARRY'S GAME, set in Belfast, which became an instant best-seller and later a television series. Six of Seymour's thrillers have now been filmed for television in the UK and US. As a former reporter the research and background to his novels is meticulously detailed and all of his stories are highly imaginative and are always a delight to read.

Gerald Seymour has been a full-time writer since 1978. THE DEALER AND THE DEAD is his twenty-seventh novel. I hope he writes many more and that I get the chance to read them all.

Terry Halligan, England
June 2011

Details of the author's other books with links to reviews can be found on the Books page.
More European crime fiction reviews can be found on the Reviews page.

last updated 26/06/2011 15:05