Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Sutherland's Rules by Dario Ciriello – Book Review

Publisher’s write-up:

‘All Christian White wants is a quiet life. But between the FDA threatening new regulations which would bankrupt his business, and the challenges posed by his open marriage to Carol, his attractive, younger, bi wife, peace isn’t anywhere on the horizon. And when he receives a letter from Billy, his old chum and sometime guardian angel from their hippie days, asking him to come to London and help him collect a forty-year-old IOU, Christian’s other problems start to look insignificant. Because the IOU is for two hundred and fifty kilos of charas, high-grade hashish from Afghanistan. And Christian owes Billy too much to even consider refusing.’

Sutherland’s Rules is the first thriller novel, or, in fact the first work of fiction written by the author Dario Ciriello. This story features Christian White and the character after whom the book is named after, Billy Sutherland, who are very close friends and are in their sixties now. Christian is leading a relatively peaceful life, running a legitimate business in New York but is threatened by the new regulations imposed by Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But, things change, when he is invited by Billy Sutherland to join him in one last mission, a highly dangerous one. An IOU that Billy signed with an old farmer at Mazari Sharif, Afghanistan, forty years ago was about to mature and was for 250 kilos of hash (cannabis). Despite all the perils at going for it, the two decide to take the change to ‘reminisce the days of their youth’ and they’re to bring the stuff back to the United Kingdom, against all odds.

The best part about the book was Billy Sutherland himself – a person with a very high IQ but has used it all along only to smuggle drugs, that too not usually for sale; made his profile very interesting. The way in which Billy planned the entire operation was the highlight of the novel. The friendship between Christian and Billy was brought out well and I was also pleased with the character building, even with that of the antagonists – the immigrants serving for the British Police force – Detective Inspector Amir Khan and his sidekick, Vladimir. The element of ‘unseen character’, often used in sitcoms although I’ve seldom seen it being used in a book, was used well in this novel – fitting Barraclough into that role, Amir Khan’s superior. Although Barraclough was never involved in an actual conversation, I believe the reader could still easily make out how he’d react in either of the cases – Khan’s success / failure in nabbing Sutherland and his friends. The tiny sub-plot was also a useful digression in the story, that being Christian’s discussions with the CEO of his firm regarding the new FDA regulations. The global element of the novel was enjoyable, with the story going through three continents over two hundred pages and – particularly, the part where it takes place in Afghanistan was my favourite which brought out the author’s diligent research on Afghanistan, their culture and their current plight. I enjoyed the description of Afghanistan and also the author’s take on some of the issues – two which I believe are worth sharing in this review:

‘The terrorists had won. No two ways about it: when a handful of semi-literate cavemen several thousand miles away could upset the lifestyle of an advanced society of hundreds of millions of civilized people, they'd won. Game over. And how? Because we'd become so soft, so afraid, so dependent on faceless structures and institutions to tell us what to do, how to act, what to think, that we actually deserved to lose’ – Page 25

‘”I think (there) will come the day when there are no foreigners, and Afghans rule all Afghans, But, peace, I am afraid that we will not have. For peace, we need more than democracy – we must all be beyond the tribe, beyond religion. This is why the Europeans no longer fight wars against each other. Until we overcome these thing, there cannot be peace”’ – Page 95

This is one of those very few books where I loved both the protagonists and their counterparts; while the former had not been doing anything so honourable, the way in which they approached the same was what made it special. Even the two police officers were good and totally workaholic and took lots of effort in the Sutherland case despite their boss being more concerned about some Estonian gang. A pity that you can't have both the sides winning.

I had wanted to read Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner for two reasons: one being the author’s citizenship – for the reason that most books in my shelf are that of the authors from the British Isles and I wanted to add variety to it by adding books of American authors; and the other one being that I wanted to read a story that takes place in Afghanistan, even if only a part of it takes place in that location. This book, satisfied both those intentions of mine even before I got my hands on to The Kite Runner although as far the first reason is concerned, it is a little complicated in this case, with the author of Sutherland’s Rules being London born, currently living in US and of Italian descent.

To sum it up, I had a thoroughly enjoyable experience reading this book and I’m sure most thriller lovers, too, would love this book. It had a well-written story, moving at the right pace and with a fitting end, which, in my opinion, are the most important aspects of the thriller novel. Going by that, I’d give this book a rating of nine on ten.

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Have a nice day,

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