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by Eva Joly and Judith Perrignon
Bitter Lemon, April 2012
367 pages
8.99 GBP
ISBN: 1908524006

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

In Nigeria, Nwankwo, head of the fraud squad, is forced to flee the country after his investigations get too close to the Head of State and his colleague is murdered. In St. Petersburg, journalist Lira plans a visit to UK, continuing her research into Louchsky, a Russian oligarch, despite already being threatened for her revelations. In Nice, Felix and the judge he works for investigate the death of the wife of Stephensen, a banker who also has links to Louchsky. Stephensen's Faroes-based bank is in trouble and Louchsky is pressing for return of his cash. Nwankwo, Lira and Felix come together in London, and seek a way to combat a criminal organisation with arms stretching across the world and the political and financial clout to make opposition difficult and very dangerous.

THE EYES OF LIRA KAZAN begins well, introducing the evidence of corruption through the eyes of three interesting characters in disparate and exotic locations, caught up in fast-moving events. Their subsequent meeting and co-operation makes sense and brings together the necessary knowledge and expertise to unravel the evidence and the means to bring it to bear. Uncertainty as to whether they will be able to formulate an effective plan of attack before the forces ranged against them put the protagonists out of action creates dramatic tension.

However, despite the many dramatic opportunities offered by the plot, THE EYES is perhaps not as thrilling as it could have been. The attack on the eyes of the title is rendered in a surprisingly low-key manner nor are the several killings in the book depicted in any detail. The dialogue comes across as a little stilted, and the action is sometimes uneven. Some may find the ending less than satisfactory, with a resolution heavier on show than substance. These shortcomings are not altogether surprising, however, considering that the author, Eva Joly, has made her career as an anti-corruption prosecuting judge, investigating some major frauds.

Thus, THE EYES OF LIRA KAZAN focuses on very topical concerns: Russian oligarchs and the violence they can visit on opponents, the international manipulation of funds including the laundering of huge amounts of cash from criminal enterprises, and the corrupting effect such sums can have on politics. Similar themes were explored in John le Carre's 2011 book OUR KIND OF TRAITOR, which is tough competition. Fiction writers in this field need to bring believable and sympathetic characters into contact with the phenomena in an interesting way, and Joly and Perrignon have certainly managed to do that.

Chris Roberts is a retired manager of shopping centres in Hong Kong, and now lives in Bristol, primarily reading.

Reviewed by Chris Roberts, April 2012

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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