Cover image for The big killing
The big killing
Wilson, Robert, 1957-
Personal Author:
First Harvest edition.
Publication Information:
Orlando : Harcourt, 2003.

Physical Description:
312 pages : map ; 21 cm.
Geographic Term:
Format :


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Material Type
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X Adult Fiction Popular Materials-Mystery

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In this second novel of the Bruce Medway series, our hero, a go-between and "fixer" for traders in steamy West Africa, smells trouble when a porn merchant asks him to deliver a video at a secret location. Things look up, though, when he's hired to act as minder to Ron Collins, a spoiled playboy looking for diamonds in the Ivory Coast. Medway thinks this could be the answer to his cashflow crisis. But when the video delivery leads to a shootout and the discovery of a mutilated body, he wants out. Obligations keep Medway fixed in the Ivory Coast and he is soon caught up in a terrifying cycle of violence. Unless he can get to the bottom of the mystery, Medway knows that for the savage killer out there in the African night, he is the next target.

Author Notes

ROBERT WILSON is the author of numerous novels, including The Company of Strangers and A Small Death in Lisbon , which won the Gold Dagger Award as Best Crime Novel of the Year from Britain's Crime Writers' Association. A graduate of Oxford University, he has worked in shipping, advertising, and trading in Africa, and has lived in Greece, Portugal, and West Africa.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

In the second Bruce Medway book, after Instruments of Darkness (2003), the boozing big guy is broke, bored, and killing time in Ivory Coast, awaiting an errand from the millionaire who holds his marker. There's civil war in neighboring Liberia, and locally someone is killing people and gutting them with metal claws. Before you can say the plot thickens, Medway has three jobs: delivering a mysterious videotape, baby-sitting a young diamond trader, and checking up on a missing plantation manager. That everything is related won't come as a surprise, although the manner in which things come together is nearly impossible to predict (mystery lovers lacking stellar powers of concentration may find themselves paging back from time to time to sort it all out). Wilson has chosen a natural setting for his very dark noir and peopled it well, with weary heroes, damaged dames, and slimy lowlifes who employ an excellent hard-boiled parlance. Unfortunately, there's so much of everything--plot, characters, twists, death, and gore--these gifts become a little bit of a burden. --Keir Graff Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

Even though it was published in the U.K. in 1996, Wilson's second Bruce Medway West African mystery seems particularly timely: at the start, Medway sits in a bar in the Ivory Coast and reads the latest details of a rebel-led war in neighboring Liberia. Those rebels have something to do with a series of murders, beatings, robberies and other assorted acts of mayhem that dog the resilient, alcohol-soaked Englishman as he tries to stay alive. "I do jobs for people who don't want to do the jobs themselves," Medway explains to a very large porno dealer, Fat Paul, who hires him to deliver a video and soon becomes one of the many violated corpses in Bruce's wake. Best known for his Gold Dagger-winning A Small Death in Lisbon, Wilson writes concisely but poetically about a callously brutal side of African life that might shock readers lulled by the sweetness of Alexander McCall Smith's stories about Botswana. But Medway's bloody misadventures, as he tries to protect a pampered diamond dealer from having his stones and his body parts ripped off by corrupt police and other villains, ring with a dark, sad credibility of their own. And Wilson also pulls off the surprising feat of making us see just what it is about life in West Africa that keeps Medway from giving it up to return to England or to follow his lost lover to Berlin. (Nov. 3) Forecast: Wilson isn't about to rival Alexander McCall Smith in the African mystery market, but Graham Greene fans stateside ought to start taking him seriously just as fans have in Britain. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved



Saturday 26th OctoberWe were here again--if you call a hangover company or a slick of methylated sweat a friend-in this bar, this palmleaf-thatched shack set back from the sea in some fractious coconut palms, waiting for the barman to arrive. The head I was nursing (the first since last Saturday) had already been given some hot milk-the Ivorians called it coffee, I called it three grains of freeze-dried and a can of condensed milk. Now it wanted a hair of the dog, and not from any of those manky curs digging themselves into the cool sand outside, and not, definitely not, any of that White Horse that was galloping around my system last night, no sirree. An ice-cold beer was what was needed. One with tears beading on the bottle and the label peeling off. I held my hand out to see how steady we were. No horizontal hold at all. Where was that barman? Once he was here, there'd be security, there'd be options. I could decide whether to hold back and make it look pre-lunch rather than post-breakfast.There he was. I could hear him, the barman, whistling that bloody tune, preparing himself for another day demonstrating the nuances of insouciance which had taken him a lifetime to refine. I sat back on the splintery wooden furniture, opened the Ivoire Soir and relaxed.I'd bought the newspaper from a kiosk in Grand Bassam, the broken-down old port town where I was staying, which was a long spit down a palm-frayed shoreline from Abidjan, the Ivory Coast capital city. I normally used it to stave off the first cold beer of the day and the boredom which came from three weeks waiting for the job I was supposed to be doing not to materialize. This time I was actually reading it. There was some ugly detail about a body, recently discovered in Abidjan, which the BBC World Service had told me, at five o'clock that morning, belonged to James Wilson. He had been a close aide to the President of the neighbouring country of Liberia and the President, as everybody in the Ivory Coast knew, had been captured, tortured and killed last month by the breakaway rebel faction leader, Jeremiah Finn.The World Service had also told me that hundreds of civilian bodies had been uncovered in swampland just north of Springs Payne Airport outside the Liberian capital, Monrovia, and that over the past three days rebel soldiers from Samson Talbot's Liberian Democratic Front had buried more than 500 bodies of mainly Ghanaian and Nigerian civilians in mass graves four miles to the north west of the capital. All this before they rounded off their report on the country's civil war with the positive identification of the strangled and mutilated body of James Wilson who'd been found in the Ebri lagoon near the Treichville quarter of Abidjan yesterday.All this on snatches of dream-torn sleep, with a hangover to support, cold water to shave in and a body that was finding new ways to say-'Enough!' No. It had not been a morning for skipping down to the beach to dance 'highlife' into the lo Excerpted from The Big Killing by Robert Wilson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.