A strange, strange novel. We begin pretty much in the middle as the hero, Charlie Doig, is on a barge with his associates and a great deal of stolen Tsarist gold. This is the third part of a trilogy, and it certainly feels like it. I think I would have had more grasp of the events had I read the previous installments.
The book is recounted in the first person, and Doig is an endearingly hard-bitten-with-a-heart-of-gold character whose laconic delivery of events and interactions adds to the atmosphere. Unable to take the gold with him out of Russia, Doig decides to sink the barge with the gold in it and come back later when things have settled down. Together with his partner Kobi, another tough adventurer who is loyal to the core, the duo head towards Japan, encountering more strange people on the way, such as the Tunga tribe and the Japanese doctor, Hijo, who is experimenting on Bolshevik prisoners to find a vaccine against typhus. Environmental issues are also touched upon when Doig kills and preserves the usually unseen by human eyes ‘Lala bird’. Collectors are willing to pay huge sums for this rarity, even though it is dead, and Doig intends to use the carcass to gain international respect and, of course, lots of money.
The characters don’t really develop or change much over the book, the focus is external action rather than internal musings, and it is more about the plot and adventure – lots of strange things happen. It is a kind of old fashioned adventure with a layer of surreal events on the top, cautiously recommended therefore, but definitely start with the first of the trilogy, White Blood.