A mass grave is uncovered in a devastated Croatian village and the mutilated body of a young Englishwoman Dorrie Mowat is exhumed.
Her mother who detested Dorrie when she was alive is determined to find out how her daughter died. But with civil war tearing apart the former Yugoslavia none of the authorities are interested in what they view as a minor war crime. She employs private investigator Bill Penn a former MI5 officer who anticipated a short trip to Zagreb where he will compile a meaningless report and receive a good fee at the end of it. But once he has seen the killing ground Penn becomes determined to find the truth behind the young woman's death.
As Penn searches for evidence of war crimes he finds himself pitted against a ruthless opponent who will stop at nothing to cover his tracks...
Seymour (The Running Target), who can stand comparison to Graham Greene, returns with another spirited, resonant thriller, this one focusing on Bosnia. The story is told mostly in flashback, as, in 1995, a British official reviews a file on a series of events that occurred in 1993. That year, the flashbacks relate, Bill Penn, a British government agent-turned-PI, is hired by Mary Braddock to find out the circumstances behind the death of her daughter in Yugoslavia; declared missing in 1991, the woman's body has recently been uncovered in a mass grave filled with the victims of an apparent massacre. Penn is determined to do more than just gather the facts behind the killing, though. He's going to try to get enough evidence to convict the man responsible--and that evidence is exactly what certain elements in British intelligence also want him to get, in order to provide some badly needed PR leverage regarding the ongoing Bosnian conflict. Using this wheels-within-wheels frame, Seymour constructs a harshly detailed novel about a dirty little war, peopled with a wide variety of deeply etched characters and suffused with a nearly palpable sense of despair and weariness. At times, there's a preachiness to the repeated refrain of too many characters that the West knows little and cares less about the troubles in Bosnia, but that doesn't lessen the statement's truth; and truth--particularly regarding the bitter price of courage and morally guided action--lies at the heart of this astute and moving work.