The words “political thriller” and “aid workers” are not usually found in the same sentence, and moreover they do not tend to raise the sense of bestseller joy that so many publishers and agents crave. That does not mean, however, that those in the business are correct for their way of thinking.
The Tethered Goat is a perfect example of a “write what you know” novel. Nicholas Winer’s time spent as an aid worker comes across in the details of the culture, politics and landscapes of Africa in the late 1980s in a way that only someone who has seen it and lived it can achieve.
The story begins in 1988, finding the main character, Mark Delama travelling to Gambela. Mark is the local director of an aid agency, and his business in Gambela concerns his belief that something is amiss with the food packages being delivered to the rebel army instead of to the refugees it is meant for. This journey leads Mark into the centre of trouble involving corrupted world powers, secrets, lies, murder and torture which endanger both him and his girlfriend.
The story moves along at a fair pace, with Mark being drawn into dealings he knows nothing about but what he is determined to see through. The political intrigue and espionage laden storyline is gripping and certainly detailed enough to hold the attention. What could have been another run of the mill political thriller is enhanced by the depth of insight offered by the author from his personal experience in Africa.
The book offers an aside in the great length it goes to in order to detail the plight of Africa in the late 1980s, ravaged by wars and famines and hindered in its repair by the powers supposed to be in control of the country.
There are a small number of issues with the book, the main one being that although detail does give the book one of its greatest strengths it also leads to one of its weaknesses. Sometimes the same kind of information is brought around again, told in a slightly different way but inevitably it is still the same information. There are also a small number of sections that I had to reread to fully understand, which can hinder the pace of the novel when it is required to return to the same section a few times. Perhaps a little further editing of the text could solve this, which can be one of the benefits of having a large publisher rather than self-publishing. That said, the additional detail does not pad down the story enough to hinder the pace too much and is more a small nit than anything else.
Despite the small niggles, The Tethered Goat is a high class thriller that can stand up alongside others in the genre and beat some of the complacent masters of the craft who need nothing more than their name to have their books published. A novel like The Tethered Goat does not have that luxury and has to work to achieve its audience through word of mouth and a lot of luck. I would happily recommend the book for any lover of espionage thrillers, and encourage them to pass on the word to anyone else they believe would enjoy it.
Title – The Tethered Goat
Author – Nicholas Winer
Publisher – YouWriteOn.com
ISBN : 1849231265