Terrain (2) (The Hussar Cycle)

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Deep in the jungle of Sierra Leone, a group of professional soldiers bolstered by some local regulars are quietly and efficiently facilitating a change of government at the request of their employers. Marek Hussar is ambivalent about the task at hand–not a good predisposition for someone who is hired to kill.

Somewhat later, in the upper echelons of international finance shady foreign debt manipulations are coming unraveled. Freddie Oslo is in the middle of it and his boss thinks it might be a good time for him to take an unannounced holiday to an undisclosed destination rather than be deposed under oath in court.

As considerations regarding Freddie’s culpability are being considered, a young actor has been hired and is being trained for a part in a mysterious reality production he’s not apprised of.

Freddie’s tour guide turns out to be the enigmatic Mr. Lanze, a.k.a. Marek Hussar, the somewhat rehabilitated Cambridge-educated mercenary who previously served the interests of similar corporate masters by perpetuating ongoing conflicts on the continent of Africa.

Freddie’s holiday involves a number of complicated and unexplained machinations including clandestine travel arrangements throughout Europe all the while being held incommunicado. Initially, the subterfuge is tolerated but Freddie’s unease builds as his questions go unanswered and his requests are ignored.

During an unguarded moment, he manages to slip away from his minder and in desperation contacts his wife and arranges a rendezvous. Her arrival accompanied by their young son infuriates Lanze, apparently complicating whatever agenda he has for his client and leaving the reader to wonder if Freddie’s disappearance is to be temporary or permanent–and what part will the actor play?

Terrain is a good example of an international thriller in all aspects except the way it’s written. Instead of a plot-driven story with a focus on action, author Hesse Caplinger has chosen to present it in a literary style with plot permutations, complex characterizations and lavish descriptions. Motives are hinted at but not declared, dialogue is oblique rather than straightforward and much is left to the reader’s imagination.

While the writing is crisp and evocative the style at times supersedes the narrative which may have some fans of this genre preferring a more blunt and uncomplicated telling. However, for the reader who wants a story that transcends the genre, Terrain is a good choice.

Credit must also be given to Caplinger for taking the risk when he could have easily written to formula.

Reviewed By:

Author Hesse Caplinger
Star Count 5/5
Format Trade
Page Count 288 pages
Publisher Carl Reinhart
Publish Date 15-Dec-2021
ISBN 9781667805047
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Issue January 2022
Category Modern Literature