Mecca, by William Deverell

Eight stars

William Deverell has dazzled fans with his wonderful writing on all things legal, particularly as they relate to the Canadian system. However, he stepped back with this piece, one of his early works, to offer up something completely different, as fitting now as it was upon its original publication. During a period of torture and deprivation, an agent of the East German Rotkommando utters a single word, ‘Mecca’. This clue can only mean that there is something planned in the holiest of Muslim cities by this terrorist organisation, though that remains entirely unclear. After washed-up poet, Jacques Sawchuk, is about to be extradited back to Canada, he panics about having to face jail time for his involvement in a terror attack over a decade before. However, he may be the perfect new recruit to place within Rotkommando to learn of their plans. Used as a pawn, Sawchuk is brought to Canada before being shuttled off to Europe, where he undergoes significant training akin to that given to new Mossad agents. Once he is planted inside a cell within Rotkommando, Sawchuk slowly learns of the plan to attack the Saudi palace. Meanwhile, there is a story developing that the American president is set to broker a deal with the Saudis to sell them missiles. These weapons will likely be used to obliterate the Isaraelis without a second thought. Needing only a few more votes in the Senate, key legislators have been bribed, paving the way to the approval of the sale. One journalist seeks to uncover this story and blow the deal out of the water, but it will take all his effort and a great deal of strategy not to find himself out of a job, or worse. When Sawchuk finds himself in the middle of the Saudi attack, he soon learns that those he thought were his friends only have his back when it suits him. Might he have been better off rotting in a Canadian prison? Deverell does a masterful job in this piece, completely out of his normal genre, to dazzle the reader and pull them in with this reasonable story of espionage. Recommended to those who like stories within this genre, set years before the topic became stale.

I came to discover William Deverell for his legal writing and have not looked back. His novels are deeper than most to which I am accustomed, but this is by no means an issue for me. Being forced to think kept me on my toes and allowed me to discover a more complex set of characters. Jacques Sawchuk proves to be less vapid than he presents in the opening chapters, as he is gritty and knows how to handle himself in touch situation. That being said, he is no hulk, as he undergoes significant pain at the hands of his enemies during a portion of the story, such that the reader cannot help but have pity for the man. His left-leaning sentiments bleed through they narrative, though this is a time when the world was truly in flux and ideological differences meant something a lot different than they do today. Many of the other characters that pepper the pages of this well-crafted book complement many of the subplots effectively, fuelling a gradual build-up of what could be cataclysmic circumstances. From spies to security personnel, Deverell places a number of key characters in specific spots to tell his story. The narrative is balanced and works effectively throughout. Set in the early 1980s, the story is free of that ISIS/September 11th theme that has been beaten to death, but chooses to focus on an increasingly powerful Israeli military that is pushing back its Arab enemies. There are some poignant moments throughout that seek to address rises in ideological clashes without flinging mud and using the 24 hour news cycle to bury opponents, which is a refreshing change. Stepping away from all things legal, Deverell makes a name for himself in the world of espionage writing without being forced to lose that Canadian flavour. This makes the novel all the more alluring to me, for I have issues with those authors who repeat the same themes in their works, as though no one has ever thought to discuss al Qaeda or ISIS as a veritable enemy of the protagonist. While I am eager to get back to his legal writing, I thoroughly enjoyed this Deverell treat!

Kudos, Mr. Deverell, for another stellar piece of writing. I’ll be sure to check out more of your books to see if I can continue my praise!

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: