Adam LeBor is a journalist and author of mainly non-fiction, The Geneva Option being his second foray into the world following his first novel, The Budapest Protocol, displaying a growing penchant for grounding his titles in attractive European cities.
His non-fiction has won him many accolades, tackling controversial subjects: Hitler’s Secret Bankers, exposing Swiss complicity with the Third Reich, and Complicity with Evil: the United Nations in the Age of Modern Genocide which takes a strong moral stance against the UN’s failure to intervene in various incidences of genocide. The Geneva Option feels like a fictional extension of the latter.
His novel follows Yael Azoulay, an attractive young woman orchestrating the seedier business of the UN, brokering deals with warlords in the world’s most dangerous war zones. However, after a leaked document leads to her being ceremoniously ejected, she finds herself catapulted into a world of greed and corruption whose filthy trails lead all the way to the highest echelons of power.
Her story is plotted alongside that of Sami, another attractive, albeit scruffy, young UN correspondent for the New York Times, whose investigative journalism helps Yael (and the reader) tie the threads of plot together, as well as offering a handy romantic interest.
The novel is enjoyable in the way a thriller should be: it’s fast-paced, full of intrigue, abuse of power, greed and cinematic twists as we are safely led through by our moralistic protagonists. Descriptions are sparse, saved for scene-setting, but this is plot-driven and the plot is good, if a little heavy on the good guy-bad guy dialectic.
For me, though, it’s all a little too Hollywood, smelling suspiciously like Ludlum’s Bourne trilogy, a fact which LeBor himself seems to acknowledge in one ‘wink-wink-nudge-nudge’ moment. The Geneva Option is set to be the first in a trilogy of novels focusing on Yael Azoulay, and perhaps a second chance at developing her character may reveal something a little more interesting.
However, with a June release, it wouldn’t be a bad novel to pick up and settle into your deck chair by the seaside with, letting your mind race gently as you work on your stock of vitamin D.
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