Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Cobra

The Cobra

(my review)
The premise of the book is riveting - what if governments too decided to fight the drug - cocaine specifically - war in a no-holds barred manner? The narration is tight, but the plot is too linear and without surprises to make it truly remarkable. A problem too is the fact that this book will suffer even more when compared to Forsyth's first novel, The Day of the Jackal, which remains, almost 40 years on, the author's best novel, and one of the best thrillers written.

The plot, set in the present day, features a black US President with Nigerian roots - yes, that would be Barrack Obama without being named as such - who decides that the horrors wreaked upon cocaine addicts needs to be put down, once and for all, using any and all means necessary. The task falls upon Paul Devereaux, a retired CIA official, who demands and gets a billion dollar plus budget and almost unlimited powers to bring the cocaine industry to its knees, or at least cripple it for a generation. A lot of the novel then moves into the plot, the sequence of steps taken by Devereaux to set the stage and plan for attacking the cocaine industry at its heart.

There is a fair bit of information about the cocaine trade, from its source in the jungles of Columbia, to its transportation to Europe via North and West Africa, via desperately poor countries ruled by despotic dictators, and into Europe. The plot described itself is quite ingenious, is tantalizingly real to make it believable, and the ending is realistic enough to make it equally believable.

Where the novel lets you down, is that the novel never picks up pace. There is no buildup towards a climax, no real twists, except for one at the very end, and which feels a bit too contrived and put more for the sake of a twist than anything else, and no character development to make the reader get involved with the characters or care much for them.

Some of the elements in the plot are too formulaic. Like the good good guys and the bad bad guys. The South Americans are almost all without scruples, the Europeans are all almost heroic, the Africans stereotypically poor, wretched, and corrupt. In a nod to an increasingly globalized world, the shipyard where the ships used by Devereaux are sent for refitting is in Goa, named Kapoor shipyards.

The Cobra by Frederick Forsyth | Flipkart Books
Frederick Forsyth - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Cobra
The Day of the Jackal

© 2010, Abhinav Agarwal. All rights reserved.