Jones, Chris Morgan - 'The Jackal's Share'
"Poor Ike," she said. "One day he's going to lose patience. Do you ever worry about that? I do". He looked at her. "I don't know how long it can go on. You resent your clients. It's a strange form of self-loathing. If you're not careful it'll spread so you won't trust anyone".
Darius Qazai steps up into the pulpit to deliver the eulogy for his friend, Cyrus Mehr. They had known each other for twenty-two years all in all - their dealer-client relationship, Mehr the antiques dealer and Qazai the collector, their growing friendship, and finally Mehr's heading of Qazai's Persian Art Foundation. The eulogy is eloquent. Qazai appears genuinely moved to tears by his friend's death who was abducted and killed whilst visiting his home country of Iran. But sitting amongst the congregation, Ben Webster examines him warily. Outside the church Webster's companion, Ike Hammer, explains that all great men have great egos; Webster replies that he does not trust great men - and Qazai's lawyer arrives to conduct them to a meeting with the great man in question. Webster has already met the oddly cold lawyer. Their opening discussions over Darius Qazai's terms for employing Ikertu, Ike Hammer's business intelligence firm, did not go well. So it comes as a surprise to receive an invitation to Mehr's funeral and to a meeting for further discussions. Over lunch Qazai explains that he has been planning to sell part of his asset-management empire but the sale fell through. The buyers would not tell him why. He needs to know what is tarnishing his reputation, in short - Darius Qazai wishes to hire Ikertu to investigate Darius Qazai. Eventually agreeing to this unusual commission, Ikertu gets hold of the proposed buyers' damning report. Right at the end of it there are implications that Qazai commissioned the smuggling of a looted artwork from Iraq, via a Swiss dealer and Cyrus Mehr. Darius Qazai insists that Ikertu scours his business and financial activities; if they find anything - then publish and be damned. Webster starts by contacting an old friend, a one-time banker based in Dubai. The friend seems to confirm Webster's gut feeling that Qazai is not what he seems and that in fact he is taking unclean money. Webster sets off to Qazai's Dubai offices to learn more.
One time business intelligence researcher himself, Chris Morgan Jones' second book THE JACKAL'S SHARE stays in the world of corporate investigation with Ben Webster as lead investigator. This time he is hired to research into the business affairs of Iranian-born billionaire and philanthropist Darius Qazai, who wants Ikertu to prove his reputation spotless and his business fit to sell. As Webster's investigations take him from London to Dubai, Italy and Morocco, his continuing distrust of Qazai begins to isolate him in an increasingly dangerous investigation. In Italy old accusations resurface that threaten Webster's own career and liberty and he starts to lose even the unequivocal support of his boss, Ike Hammer. Thank heavens then for his rumbustious friend Fletcher Constance. And - I might add - Moroccan investigator, Kamila, who alone in Webster's world of beautiful, somewhat distant women, provides a working practicality together with a middle-age spread.
I was impressed by Morgan Jones' first book AN AGENT OF DECEIT and I am delighted to say that I think THE JACKAL'S SHARE is even better. In Morgan Jones' hands, the world of business intelligence and espionage becomes as full of menace as any action packed thriller. Whilst he does not rely on weapon-wielding muscle-action for thrills, his subtle storytelling unfolds his characters' psychology and draws us into the suspense. Morgan Jones makes us privy to Webster's doubts and desires and the intuition-cum-paranoia that fuels his obstinacy. He also depicts Webster as scarred by events in the previous book and, as I neared the end of THE JACKAL'S SHARE, I wondered if Ben Webster will be altered by the events of this story as well and I don't think I've ever considered the consequences of plot events effecting a lead character's personality before. So does this mean we have to read the books in order? I am not sure. But I hope there will be plenty more Webster titles to increase the dilemma. If you like contemporary spy thrillers, and even if you think you don't, THE JACKAL'S SHARE is one to try and Chris Morgan Jones an author to follow.
Lynn Harvey, England