Blog Tour/Book Review: The Glass Diplomat by S. R. Wilsher

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I’m delighted to be co-hosting today’s stop on the blog tour for The Glass Diplomat by S. R. Wilsher, alongside my tour buddies, Seansbookreviews and ElleseaLovesReading.  You can check out all the other great book bloggers taking part in the tour by viewing the banner at the bottom of this post.

The Glass DiplomatAbout the Book

In 1973 Chile, thirteen-year-old English schoolboy Charlie Norton watches his father walk into the night and never return. Taken in by diplomat Tomas Abrego, his life becomes intricately linked to the family.

Eleven years later, Abrego is the Chilean Ambassador to London and Charlie is reunited with the Abrego sisters. Despite his love for them, he’s unable to prevent Maria falling under the spell of a left-wing revolutionary, or Sophia from being used as a political pawn by her father.

His connection to the family is complicated by the growing evidence that Tomas Abrego was somehow involved in his father’s disappearance.

As the conflict of a family divided by love and politics comes to a head on the night of the 1989 student riots in Santiago, Charlie has to act to save the sisters from an enemy they cannot see.

Format: ebook (421 pp.)    Publisher:
Published: 20th August 2018         Genre: Literary Fiction, Thriller

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My Review

I thoroughly enjoyed S. R. Wilsher’s previous book, The Good Father, a thriller set around the Bosnian conflict.  Therefore, I was thrilled to learn he had written a new book, The Glass Diplomat, and pleased to have the opportunity to help promote it by joining the blog tour for the book (ably organised as always by Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources).

I’ll admit that, other than recognising the name Pinochet and associating it with some dubious events and the concept of dictatorship, I knew little of Chile’s political history before reading The Glass Diplomat.  I now know an awful lot more and a great deal of it is extremely dark and disturbing indeed: oppression, corruption, torture, ‘disappearances’ and assassination.

The book’s gripping opening scene set in 1989 creates an immediate sense of jeopardy and conveys the propensity for violence and cruelty exhibited by those in authority.  Then it’s back to 1973 where, through the eyes of thirteen year old Charlie, the reader glimpses fragments of the pivotal event that will propel both the narrative and the dynamics of the relationship between the various characters in the book.   Despite not understanding completely what has happened, Charlie instinctively distrusts what he is told about his father’s disappearance by Tomas, the head of the powerful Abrego family.  Who can Charlie really trust?  It’s a question he will return to time after time in the ensuing years.  He recalls his father’s advice about Tomas Abrego, ‘Always remember the facade differs from what lies behind’ and his warning always to be careful of the rich: ‘You must remember what they did to become wealthy, and what they’re prepared to do to stay rich.’  Wise words, as it will turn out.

Despite warnings, even from certain members of the Abrego family themselves, Charlie finds himself drawn over and over again into their orbit as if they exert some sort of gravitational pull on him that he is powerless to resist.    In particular, Abrego’s two daughters, Sophia and Maria, each in different ways come to play significant roles in Charlie’s life. Soon, he finds that his actions bring him to the attention of even more dangerous enemies whose reach is seemingly endless, whose scruples are non-existent and whose motivation to wish him harm is of a deeply personal nature.  Throughout the book there is a real sense of history repeating itself, and invariably not in a good way.  For example, the desire for revenge or the ability to kill without conscience passed down from father to son or even the relevance of a family likeness.

The backdrop to Charlie’s search for the truth about his father is the turbulent political history of Chile.  However, the skill of the author is that this is conveyed in a way that didn’t make it feel like a straight history lesson, which can be the case I find in some historical fiction.

Later, Charlie pursues a career in journalism and uses his personal contacts to gain access to influential figures in the Chilean politics of the period that would be denied to others.  However, his powerful personal opinion pieces only serve to increase his enemies’ desire to cause him harm.  I liked the idea that sometimes, given political realities or the corruption inherent in a country’s legal system, the only way for justice to be served is by exposing the truth to the wider world through the power of the press and the written word.

The author explores some themes that seem unfortunately only too relevant to the times we find ourselves in now, such as the political expediency often prevalent in foreign policy and the potential power of demagogues.   In one of his newspaper articles, Charlie observes: ‘Because the dictators of the future won’t be the ex-soldiers of old who knew how to control the guns of other men.  They’ll be the ones who control the thinking of everyone, the economists who control where the money goes, and the politicians who mealy-mouth for them.’  That’s food for thought still isn’t it?

I found The Glass Diplomat a completely absorbing and thoroughly satisfying read.  It had me gripped from start to finish not only because of the skilful plotting, dramatically rendered action sequences and intriguing mystery but because of the complex, believable characters and the insight into the political history of a country of which I had only a sketchy knowledge before.  For fans of intelligent literary thrillers, The Glass Diplomat is definitely one to add to your wish list.

I received a review copy courtesy of the author and Rachel at Rachel’s Random Resources, in return for an honest and unbiased review.

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In three words: Powerful, gripping, thought-provoking

Try something similar…The Good Father by S. R. Wilsher (read my review here)

S R WilsherAbout the Author

S R Wilsher writes: ‘It didn’t occur to me to write until I was twenty-two, prompted by reading a disappointing book by an author I’d previously liked. I wrote thirty pages of a story I abandoned because it didn’t work on any level. I moved on to a thriller about lost treasure in Central America; which I finished, but never showed to anyone. Two more went the way of the first, and I forgave the author.

After that I became more interested in people-centric stories. I also decided I needed to get some help with my writing, and studied for a degree with the OU. I chose Psychology partly because it was an easier sell to my family than Creative Writing. But mainly because it suited the changing tastes of my writing. When I look back, so many of my choices have been about my writing.

I’ve been writing all my adult life, but nine years ago I had a kidney transplant which interrupted my career, to everyone’s relief. It did mean my output increased, and I developed a work plan that sees me with two projects on the go at any one time. Although that has taken a hit in recent months as I’m currently renovating a house and getting to know my very new granddaughter.

I write for no other reason than I enjoy it deeply. I like the challenge of making a story work. I get a thrill from tinkering with the structure, of creating characters that I care about, and of manipulating a plot that unravels unpredictably, yet logically. I like to write myself into a corner and then see how I can escape. To me, writing is a puzzle I like to spend my time trying to solve.’

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