Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Conflict and Intrigue in Mali - an inside view?

A review of The Golden Hour by Todd Moss, GP Putnam’s Sons, NY, 2014

This novel of diplomatic intrigue is set in Mali and revolves around a coup d’etat where all is not quite what it seems to be.  The hero of the piece is Judd Ryker a university professor who has elaborated a theory, based apparently on statistics (although that was never explained) , to the effect that to reverse a coup d’etat one must act early before the politics, personalities  and security arrangements of the coup makers can jell, i.e. within the golden hour(s).    Duh...  In any case this codification of common sense has propelled Ryker into a job at the Department of State where he has been given the responsibility to implement his theory.  Mali, a country that he had some academic experience in, conveniently comes along. 

Ryker, a political appointee, has to confront an unwelcoming and unwieldy bureaucratic system. (This gives author Moss, himself from this milieu, the opportunity to satirize the system; both State and CIA. Yet such digs are not spiteful and descriptions of people and processes have the ring of truth).  Ryker finds that he has to go personally to Mali to discover the truth.  Amazingly he already knows most of the players involved, and although the truth is difficult to discern, our hero works his way through and, of course, saves the day.  Although Ryker is a one man show, unknowingly, he is also a pawn. That is a nice twist in the plot.

Because of author Moss’ background there is much inside scoop on how the State Department reacts to a crisis.  Those knowledgeable will be forced to laugh at themselves. The Mali context was accurate as to places and culture.  I thought the portrait of the ambassador, albeit overdrawn, was fun.  Readers do need to be reminded that this book is fiction, the type of power, and ability to marshal resources to the extent described, just does not exist. 

However, the bottom line is that The Golden Hour is a jolly good read.

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