viernes, 14 de septiembre de 2012

A Song For Nemesis by Len Harper


A Song For Nemesis by Len Harper will appeal to any reader who likes a book to be action-packed and driven by an explicit and largely linear plot that occupies the narrative focus and, apparently, the entire psyches of most of the characters. Written in the style of its genre, A Song For Nemesis is effectively a screenplay that has been filmed Hollywood-style. The plot is revealed largely through dialogue between pairs of characters, with occasional musings offering background and interpretation that operate rather like incidental music. This stylistic device could be a weakness – and usually is – but in the case of A Song For Nemesis by Len Harper, it subtly enhances the plot, since the book’s principal character, Enriqué, is a film maker pursuing his craft.

In all books of this genre, any summary of the plot’s content becomes a spoiler, since finding out what happens is the main reason for reading the book. But it is possible, without spoiling the plot, to mention some settings, contexts, themes and characters.

A Song For Nemesis opens in London, and much of the action is set in the west of that city. It starts near the Oval, visits Holland Park and goes as far afield as Hammersmith. Some people, it seems, have to keep on the move, because there are snipers with rifles and silenced handguns, plus road-rage drivers with powerful cars who mean business, applying their attentions mainly to Enriqué. It seems that the hit-men - or man, perhaps, because balaclavas can be changed - is none too competent, since the job seems to be beyond him. But, as the plot unfolds, we appreciate that there might be method in such incompetence, since mere madness might be the eventual motive. It might be Enriqué’s project that is the target, but is the aim to prevent it or, perversely, protect it?

The first event in A Song For Nemesis is Enriqué’s proposal to Lena, who just happens to be in a rock band. She is going to accept the offer, can’t wait, it seems, but first she has to do a gig. And at that gig a hit-man bursts onto the stage and brings the song to an abrupt end. The question is why? The answer may become clear towards the end of the book.

Enriqué is an interesting character, who surely would have been more interesting had we got to know him better. He is an émigré - perhaps refugee? - from El Salvador. He is also a film maker and a competent one, who likes to lace his entertainment with traces of meaning and significance. On an assignment in El Salvador he gets shot. A kitchen knife doused in a disinfectant of moonshine digs out the bullet. The blade is handled by Senica - pronounced Seneeca - with such aplomb that the wound seems to heal in no time at all. Cutting someone’s arm to bits, it seems, is a real come on, because Enriqué and Senica bond, with the lady eventually playing a virtually non-speaking role in that crucial film that the director is making.

If a murder and an international conflict characterised by terrorism and guerrilla warfare were not enough, these characters also have to deal with an international conspiracy. Yes, there’s a secret society that is so secret that the whole world seems to know about it, right down to its origins in central Asia, the brainchild of a descendent of Genghis Khan, no less. There are capitalists whose corporations are associated with a covert drive for world government, making a change from global domination, though in the end it may amount to the same thing. There is an upper crust family in Oxfordshire, whose generations look down from wall portraits to haunt the living heirs. They have their Damascus moment, but it happens in Oxford, though they do have a flat in London, as well. There is an elderly magnate in the United States, a curiously ambivalent figure who has some even more curious employees, and a landed aristocrat with generations of ancient lineage in Switzerland… But this is all getting very close to the substance of plot and plotting, of which there is much.

El Salvadorean émigré Enriqué eventually makes his film, and its revelations prove immediately significant. But what the film is about and what transpires along the way will only be revealed if you read A Song For Nemesis by Len Harper.

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