The Jackal's Share
Review: A self-made billionaire, one who apparently enjoys the highest regard of his peers in the financial world, hires the consulting firm Ikertu to discreetly determine why a deal he had arranged with an American firm has suddenly been canceled just before closing, the company saying that he "didn't pass the test", in The Jackal's Share, the second thriller in this series by Chris Morgan Jones.
Ben Webster is assigned to the case, even though he has significant reservations about investigating Darius Qazai's affairs. Webster is put off by how self-confident Qazai is, how he seems to know in advance that everything will go his way. But of course, that's the problem: something hasn't gone his way, and he's troubled by it in an untroubled sort of way. And then there's the recent murder of Qazai's friend in Iran. The Iranian authorities have closed the book on case, and even Qazai says it isn't related, but Webster can't shake the feeling that it somehow must be. It isn't until a threat is made on Qazai's son's family, and later when his son is killed in a suspicious automobile accident, that Webster believes Qazai is hiding something deeply personal, something that he, Webster, is determined to learn, even as it jeopardizes his own life and that of his family.
The plot of The Jackal's Share is surprisingly unremarkable. With so many directions it could have taken, the storyline unfolds in the most direct — and predictable — manner. The fact that there are no surprises or twists is generally not fatal for a book nor an issue for its readers; there are many interesting and exciting thrillers that follow the same general path as this one does. The most significant problem here is that Webster has absolutely no rational reason to pursue this investigation after he is ordered by his boss to write a final report and bill the client; mere curiosity doesn't count. This is a man who has experienced great loss — the plot of the previous book, briefly outlined at the beginning of this one — and one whose current familial relationships are not altogether solid. Would this man risk everything important to him, including a job he seems to enjoy, just to say he completed this assignment to his own satisfaction and on his own terms? It's a stretch to believe that and as such it makes much of the second half of the book so untenable. Maybe if the book were more exciting, more dynamic, more thrilling, one could forgive Webster for being, speaking frankly, so stupid. But it isn't, and he is.
Almost everything else about The Jackal's Share is really quite first rate. The prose is refined and elegant, the dialog realistic and true. The international settings, particularly Dubai, make for strong backdrops to Webster's investigation. But none of this can truly compensate for a cautiously intelligent man consciously making what he knows to be a rash, and more importantly dumb, decision. It's simply not credible that this could, or would, happen, even in the context of this fictional story.
Acknowledgment: Penguin Group provided a copy of The Jackal's Share for this review.
Review Copyright © 2013 — Hidden Staircase Mystery Books — All Rights Reserved
Selected reviews of other mysteries by this author …
The Silent Oligarch
Penguin (Hardcover), January 2012
ISBN-13: 9781594203190; ISBN-10: 1594203199
Location(s) referenced in The Jackal's Share: London, England; Dubai; Morocco
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The Jackal's Share by Chris Morgan Jones — A Ben Webster Thriller
Publication Date: February 2013
List Price: $26.95