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Boeke | Books > Resensies | Reviews > English

Intelligent, unexpectedly moving thriller a fast-paced treat

Jonathan Amid - 2010-10-21

Title: An Ordinary Day
Author: Trevor R Corbett
Publisher: Umuzi
ISBN: 9781415200827

Click here to buy a copy from Kalahari.net.

One of the latest in a string of immensely entertaining titles from Umuzi, Trevor R Corbett’s An Ordinary Day is a South African novel that encompasses a wide array of political issues in a relevant, insightful way. As someone who has worked for agencies like the National Intelligence Service and the NIA for more than twenty years, Corbett is in the ideal position to use his expertise in the field of corporate and political espionage to give readers unique insights into the ways that concerns over security, terror and struggles for power continuously rub shoulders with cultural translation and social transitions.

A novel that is as plot-driven and unceasingly immersive as it is fast-paced, An Ordinary Day is set mostly in Durban in 2002 (after the bombing of the Twin Towers in 2001 and with the African Union in its inception), but tracks across various international locations.

Although the novel is framed with brief yet emotive passages set in Israel, Corbett’s main plot lines focus on a period of activity where the central protagonist, agent Kevin Durant of the NIA, must foil the plans of a corrupt and dangerous Durban businessman, Ali, a middleman in the chain of command between Libyan terrorist sources seeking to gain weapons of mass destruction. While working with his close friend Mike Shezi, Durant must keep his wits as he navigates between various persons who are never quite what they seem, on an assignment that becomes more dangerous as time goes by, and with the CIA constantly disrupting the flow of the investigation. Durant is also tasked with identifying the source that is rapidly leaking information from the inside of his organisation, and placate his increasingly nervous postnatal wife, who struggles to keep it together as her husband spends less and less time with her at home.

Corbett allows us to see various perspectives on the fight for social justice, vengeance and retribution, and the tremendous cost of terror and terrorism in its many forms. Without divulging too much of the novel’s densely woven plot, it is fair to say that a large cast of other characters conspire to make the task at hand for Durant, and the issues at play, all the more three-dimensional and difficult to resolve. Corbett’s novel is mainstream in the sense that the tension and suspense gradually ratchets up as we follow the course of the action with Durant and his associates. It is hard not to think of other recent titles such as Chris Marnewick’s The Soldier Who Said No as we engage with a just, yet tough-as-nails protagonist that remains true to his own ideals, even when the letter of the law does not cater for those who do their work on the borders of society and on the fringes of what we think is right.

Ultimately, An Ordinary Day transcends a purely local sense of relevance and interest as the author seamlessly weaves various strands of individual stories with events of global significance – like the Lockerbie bombings masterminded by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi – while remaining sensitive to the nature of conflicts between East and West, and between Israelis and Palestinians. As a smartly written and unexpectedly moving political thriller, An Ordinary Day should find favour with a large, but discerning, audience, a section of readers willing to think about pressing social issues long after the novel’s final pages have been turned.