Clár Ni Chonghaile, pb Legend Press Ltd, £8.99
As a debut novel, Fractured has all the elements of a great page-turner, and it delivers. Set in war-torn Somalia, we find seasoned journalist Peter Maguire held hostage. Unreservedly bleak, the political thriller interweaves neatly around the thoughts, emotions and fears of Peter, his estranged mother Nina, and Somali teenager Abdi. Interestingly, I found myself warming more to the latter than either Peter or Nina, who come across as somewhat cold. In fact, Abdi has endured many hardships during his brief life, and is very much a victim like Peter. Clár sets an interesting pace throughout the book, flitting between the immediacy of Peter’s fate, and the many reflective periods of the three individuals. For what the author is doing so cleverly is using building blocks to create pictures in one’s mind, prompting the reader to reflect themselves on who is right or wrong through the choices they have made in their past actions. For the title ‘Fractured’ relates to broken families and the frailties of human nature, and how we can all become victims. There are many twists and turns, including the fate of Peter’s girlfriend in France; his brief encounter in Liberia, where he has a son he has never seen; and the quiet, almost private exchanges between Peter and Abdi, whose duties include bringing food to the cell. It is as if Abdi knows what he is doing is wrong, but his back is to the wall for fear of reprisals, should he happen to question the motives of the terrorists, and not follow orders. You genuinely want this vulnerable young man, who has already lost his father, brother and mother, to stay true to himself. A sombre, suspense-riddled, absorbing read, with no real heroes to speak of, but plenty of thought-provoking moments throughout the book. As a former correspondent in Johannesburg and Nairobi myself, much of what Clár writes rings so true with my own memories of past turbulent and disruptive episodes in those countries.