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.’

Connect with S. R. Wilsher

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My Week in Books – 19th August ’18



New arrivals

The GroundsmenThe Groundsmen by Lynn Buckle (eARC, courtesy of Epoque Press)

The Groundsmen delves into the fractured lives of a family blemished by a darkly disturbing past. The secrets kept hidden over multiple generations taint them all and as events spiral out of control in a cycle of violence, none of them will escape. The narrative is told from the perspective of five individual family members:

Louis is trapped under the dark shadow of his past with Toby.
Cally retreats to a world of myth and seeks a salvation that eludes her.
Andi is caught in a degenerate relationship of dependency and control.
Cassie is turning into a dog and burying the wreckage of all their lives in the garden.

Over them all looms the dark presence of the Groundsman’s hut.

Pre-order from Amazon UK

The Missing GirlThe Missing Girl by Jenny Quintana (ebook)

When Anna Flores’ adored older sister goes missing as a teenager, Anna copes by disappearing too, just as soon as she can: running as far away from her family as possible, and eventually building a life for herself abroad.

Thirty years later, the death of her mother finally forces Anna to return home. Tasked with sorting through her mother’s possessions, she begins to confront not just her mother’s death, but also the huge hole Gabriella’s disappearance left in her life – and finds herself asking a question she’s not allowed herself to ask for years: what really happened to her sister?

With that question comes the revelation that her biggest fear isn’t discovering the worst; it’s never knowing the answer. But is it too late for Anna to uncover the truth about Gabriella’s disappearance?

The Labyrinth of the SpiritsThe Labyrinth of the Spirits (The Cemetery of Forgotten Books #4) by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (eARC, NetGalley)

Barcelona, 1957. Daniel Sempere runs the Sempere & Sons bookshop, is happily married and has a son. No longer the child who discovered the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, he is still haunted by the mysterious death of his mother when he was six years old. Meanwhile his best friend and accomplice, Fermin, is about to marry the love of his life. But something appears to be bothering him. One morning, when Daniel is alone in the shop, a mysterious figure enters and buys a precious copy of The Count of Monte Cristo. Then, to Daniel’s surprise, the man inscribes the book with the words ‘To Fermin Romero de Torres, who came back from the dead and who holds the key to the future’.

That night Fermin confesses that he was once in prison and that he had to fake his own death to escape. Now his former cellmate has reappeared with a possible key to hidden treasure. But is it a trap? And why is Daniel’s wife meeting someone in secret? And who was the sinister figure Daniel’s mother went to meet on the night of her death…

The Labyrinth is a stunning Russian doll of a novel, an addictive story that will lure you into a world of plots within plots, where even the shadows have a story to tell…

Pre-order from Amazon UK

Eagle & CraneEagle & Crane by Suzanne Rindell (hardcover, review copy courtesy of Allison & Busby)

Louis Thorn and Haruto “Harry” Yamada — Eagle and Crane — are the star attractions of Earl Shaw’s Flying Circus, a daredevil (and not exactly legal) flying act that traverses Depression-era California. The young men have a complicated relationship, thanks to the Thorn family’s belief that the Yamadas — Japanese immigrants — stole land that should have stayed in the Thorn family.

When Louis and Harry become aerial stuntmen, performing death-defying tricks high above audiences, they’re both drawn to Shaw’s smart and appealing stepdaughter, Ava Brooks. When the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor and one of Shaw’s planes mysteriously crashes and two charred bodies are discovered in it, authorities conclude that the victims were Harry and his father, Kenichi, who had escaped from a Japanese internment camp they had been sent to by the federal government. To the local sheriff, the situation is open and shut. But to the lone FBI agent assigned to the case, the details don’t add up.

Thus begins an investigation into what really happened to cause the plane crash, who was in the plane when it fell from the sky, and why no one involved seems willing to tell the truth. By turns an absorbing mystery and a fascinating exploration of race, family and loyalty, Eagle & Crane is that rare novel that tells a gripping story as it explores a terrible era of American history.

The Moving BladeThe Moving Blade (Detective Hiroshi #2) by Michael Pronko (eARC, courtesy of the author)

When the top American diplomat in Tokyo, Bernard Mattson, is killed, he leaves more than a lifetime of successful Japan-American negotiations. He leaves a missing manuscript, boxes of research, a lost keynote speech and a tangled web of relations.

When his alluring daughter, Jamie, returns from America wanting answers, finding only threats, Detective Hiroshi Shimizu is dragged from the safe confines of his office into the street-level realities of Pacific Rim politics.

With help from ex-sumo wrestler Sakaguchi, Hiroshi searches for the killer from back alley bars to government offices, through anti-nuke protests to military conspiracies. When two more bodies turn up, Hiroshi must choose between desire and duty, violence or procedure, before the killer silences his next victim.

The Moving Blade is the second in the Tokyo-based Detective Hiroshi series by award-winning author Michael Pronko.

Pre-order from Amazon UK

Conrad Monk and the Great Heathen ArmyConrad Monk and the Great Heathen Army by Edoardo Albert (ebook, review copy courtesy of Endeavour)

Conrad is a monk, but he has become a monk through trickery and against his will. So, it is fair to say that his heart isn’t really in it. Conrad is also clever, charming, entirely self-serving, self-absorbed and almost completely without scruple — but in Anglo-Saxon England, when the Danish invaders come calling, those are very helpful attributes to have.

And so it comes to pass that Conrad finds himself constantly dodging death by various means, some reasonable, some… less so. His tricks include selling his brother monks into slavery, witnessing the death of a king, juggling his loyalties between his own people and the Danes, robbing corpses and impersonating a bishop.

By his side throughout is the gentle and honourable Brother Odo, a man so naturally and completely good that even animals sense it. He is no match of wits for the cunning Conrad but can he, perhaps, at least encourage the wayward monk to behave a little better?

Conrad Monk and the Great Heathen Army takes the reader on a hugely entertaining and highly informative trip through the Anglo-Saxon world, in the company of a persuasive and likeable — if frequently despicable — tour guide. It is a story that combines painstakingly accurate depictions of history with a fast-moving and often hilarious plot, and as such is bound to appeal to lovers of history, historical fiction and character-driven fiction alike.

The Last ThreadThe Last Thread by Ray Britain (ebook, review copy courtesy of the author)

Accused of pushing a boy to his death in a failed suicide intervention, DCI Doug Stirling is suspended from duty. Attacked in the media and haunted by the boy’s smile as he let go of Stirling’s hand, he must look on helplessly as the incompetent Chief Inspector Ballard who is intent on destroying him investigates the boy’s death, supported by the vindictive Deputy Chief Constable, McDonald.

Weeks later, an anonymous call leads the police to a remote location and the discovery of a burnt-out car containing the body of an unidentified man who has been savagely murdered. Short of experienced senior investigators, ACC Steph Tanner has no choice but to take a professional risk. Throwing Stirling the lifeline he needs to restore his reputation, Tanner appoints him as SIO to lead the investigation.

But with no witnesses, no forensic evidence and more theories than investigators, Stirling’s investigation has far too many ‘loose threads’ as he uncovers a complex, interwoven history of deception, betrayal and sadistic relationships. Was the victim connected to the crime scene? Is the murder as complex as it appears? Or is there a simpler explanation? Still traumatised by the boy’s death and with time the enemy, does Stirling still have what it takes to bring the killer, or killers, to justice before McDonald intervenes?

Things are already difficult enough when DC Helen Williams joins the investigation, a determined woman who seems intent on rekindling their past relationship. And is Ayesha, the beautiful lawyer Stirling has grown fond of, connected to the murder somehow?

On What Cathy Read Next last week

Monday – I joined the blog tour for Island on Fire by Sophie Schiller sharing my review of this historical romance set on the island of Martinique.  I also took part in the cover reveal for Shari Low’s next book, Another Day in Winter.

Tuesday – This week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic gave me a marvellous opportunity to share my ten favourite book blogs.  So many great ones I had to leave out though…

WednesdayWWW Wednesday is the opportunity to share what I’ve just finished reading, what I’m reading now and what I’ll be reading next.

Thursday – For Throwback Thursday I revisited my review of a fascinating memoir, A Countess in Limbo by Olga Hendrikoff and Sue Carscallen.

Friday – I closed out the blog tour for the quirky and heart-warming The Unlikely Heroics of Sam Holloway by Rhys Thomas.  I also published my review of A Quiet Genocide by Glenn Bryant, which, through the fictional story of one boy, sheds light on a little known atrocity that took place in Nazi Germany.

Saturday – I published my review of crime thriller In The Blood by Ruth Mancini.

On What Cathy Read Next this week

Currently reading

Planned posts

  • Blog Tour/Book Review: The Glass Diplomat by S. R. Wilsher
  • Book Review: The Secrets of Primrose Square by Claudia Carroll
  • Blog Tour/Book Review: The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas
  • Book Review: Heat and Dust by Ruth Prawer Jhabvala