Avenger is a thriller set mostly in 2001, before the events of 9/11 took place. In 1995 a young man from a rich American family is murdered in Bosnia. His body is left in the cess pit where he was killed. The people his family sent to investigate his disappearance were unable to find out what had happened to him. In 2001 a man who had witnessed the killing wrote a confession of what he had seen. The murdered man’s wealthy grandfather asks a friend to bring the killers to justice, whatever the cost. The friend informs directors in the security services, including the CIA and FBI. When the director of the FBI learns that the CIA is shielding the murderer he contacts the Avenger. It then becomes a battle of wits between the agency and the Avenger. He doesn’t know they want to stop him. They don’t know who he is.
Frederick Forsyth does some excellent scene-setting in this story. He gives the Avenger a full history – a boy from a poor background joins the US Army and fights in Vietnam as part of a clandestine unit called the Tunnel Rats. When he leaves the army he becomes a lawyer. While doing Legal Aid defence jobs he successfully defends some people who will later assist him with this job. The murderer is a thoroughly unlikeable Yugoslavian gangster. The CIA man who protects him is a self-righteous man who believes the life of one man means nothing when weighed against ‘the greater good’. Normally he’d be working with the ‘good guys’, but Forsyth makes him morally ambiguous.
Avenger moves at a nice pace with the CIA trying to stop the Avenger, who outsmarts them at every turn. Forsyth gives dates for the events at regular intervals. When I read the final date I found myself wondering how history might have been different if the story had been real and Avenger had failed. Definitely a book I’ll come back to.