Written by Bernard Besson, translated by Julie Rose — You can count on Bernard Besson, former senior chief of staff for the French intelligence services, to be topical and well-informed. His thrillers are always leading edge in terms of subject matter and spyware methodology. After addressing topics such as the rise of religious fundamentalism or the bailout of Western economies by the Chinese in previous novels, The Greenland Breach is the first of his books to be translated into English. It might be the first eco-thriller I have read which does not have a science-fiction backdrop.
A huge chunk of ice has broken away from Greenland, creating the breach of the title, and a stunning apocalyptic background against which the story unfolds. A ship owned by the French-Danish oil conglomerate Terre Noire is carrying a mysterious cargo. On board is a Nobel Prize-winning scientist. The ship, the scientist and the crew are all endangered by the cracking ice, and are fighting for survival. There are strange events on board that smack of sabotage… then the scientist is found murdered. Yet the ship’s captain, the surly but honest Breton Loïc Le Guévenec, is determined to bring the Terre Noire home safely.
Meanwhile, the close-knit team of strategic investigators at a company called Fermatown are hired by a Canadian oil company to spy on the vessel. They pose as bodygaurds for the daughter of the oil company’s CEO, and she is currently studying in Paris. Meanwhile, the CEO himself has gone to Greenland on a secret mission and has been missing for several days. The three Fermatown friends and collaborators – ex-special forces John, his diminutive but feisty partner Victoire, and gifted young hacker Luc – are too experienced to believe everything they are told. Yet even they get confused as the mission becomes ever more complicated, and more suspicious characters enter the fray. Each player in this elaborate minuet knows something but not everything about the other players, and the conflict of interests soon turns deadly. Just when you think it can’t possibly get any worse, it does. As the death toll mounts, it is hard to tell who are the goodies and the baddies. Savage dismemberment and other gruesome forms of death described in the book (albeit mercifully brief) seem to mirror the brutality done to the planet.
For those who enjoy a rollercoaster of a ride with thrills galore, this book certainly delivers. The chapters are short and punchy, and there are rapid shifts in points of view. This does make it difficult at times to fully empathise with the characters, and some of them do feel a little formulaic. For the James Bond fan, there are plenty of sophisticated gadgets, fiendishly complex puzzles and clever use of technology. However, the aspect of the novel which I most enjoyed was that, if you look beneath the glossy, high-paced surface, there is a thought-provoking plea to re-examine the way we live and act today. Global warming is but one of the culprits in this story. Corporate and personal greed, national pride, inflated egos and lack of concern for the future of humanity are all equally to blame. Yet the author conveys this message without any preaching, simply by recounting an exciting adventure.
Le French Book
CFL Rating: 4 Stars