Seymour, Gerald - 'The Collaborator'
This very ordinary bloke, Eddie Deacon who teaches languages to foreign students in a London college is day dreaming on a park bench one day and he gets talking to an Italian accountancy student who asks him to explain what some English words in a text book she is studying mean. As Italian is one of his languages he is very easily able to help her. This friendly banter soon develops into a much deeper relationship, which he realises is very one-sided in that she knows a lot about him, where he works and lives and his friends and so on, but he knows very little about her. She seems very shy about him knowing precisely where she lives. She won't let him walk her all the way home but always leaves him before they reach precisely where she lives so he hasn't got her address.
He calls her "Mac", but her full name is Immacolata Borelli and she is the daughter of a Mafia Godfather in Naples, who has come to London to study English and Accountancy. She lives with a criminal brother and suddenly, she one day receives a message from Naples that a very close non-Mafia friend has died and she is invited to the funeral. She returns to Naples, very hurriedly but is late for the service, missing it completely and only getting to the cemetery just in time to see her deceased friend's body, emaciated as it is, interned in a grave. The family of her friend, who died from leukaemia, are very antagonistic towards Mac as they blame her and the Mafia family for causing their daughter's death. One of the regular contracts the Mafia handled was the disposal of chemical waste, which they dumped in fields, orchards and streams over a period of twenty years. Her friend's doctors said the surrounding countryside is full of toxins which have probably caused her death. Mac is terribly ashamed about all this and vows to herself to give up her old life.
She returns to London, but cannot return to her course, as she cannot get out of her mind the untimely death of her friend and the reaction of her relatives. After much soul-searching and tossing and turning during the night, she contacts by telephone the anti-Mafia authorities in Naples and tells them she wishes to "collaborate" against her family and that they should immediately arrange for an international arrest warrant to take into custody the brother she has been living with. The Italian authorities do this and they also take her back to Italy with them. Mac did all of this without reference to Eddie who was by this time very much in love with her.
When she effectively disappeared Eddie was very worried and without knowing her address it was difficult to find her. However, he wandered around Hackney in the vicinity of where he always left her and with the help of a street urchin he did locate her home, which was guarded by police and he searched and found reference to an address in Naples. He tells his parents by phone that he is leaving for Naples and just goes out there. Meanwhile, Mac's criminal parents and brothers have been arrested and there is a contract out to kill her before she can give evidence against her family in open court. Eddie arrives in the town and is walking around enquiring about the whereabouts of Mac's family completely oblivious of the danger. He is kidnapped and a message is sent to the anti-Mafia authorities that if Mac and her relations are not released without charge, fingers and other body parts of Eddie will be sent to them. Eddie's family are very concerned about him and an ex-SAS hostage negotiator is sent in to help the Italian police, and the book rushes on to its very exciting and surprising conclusion.
This novel is completely different to all the others that I have read by this very experienced author (this is his 26th book) and they all are written with different themes, which is one of the factors that makes him such an exciting writer. He is also from a journalistic background (fifteen years as an international reporter with ITN) and meticulously researches the background to all his books and it is very reassuring, reading facts and background details in his stories and knowing that they must be authentic because he has such a good reputation. I enjoyed this book immensely and look forward to his next one which is entitled THE DEALER AND THE DEAD.
Read another review of THE COLLABORATOR.
Terry Halligan, England