The Wolf Of Sarajevo by Matthew Palmer is a thriller set in the Balkans.
It is the author’s way of reminding Americans about
that part of the world. Because of his close ties Palmer is
able to use his experiences to create a good storyline.
Palmer has spent a good amount of his life and career working
in this area of the world. His first post was with the Foreign
Service at the US Embassy in Serbia. He later served as desk
officer in Washington and as a political counselor in Belgrade
where he helped broker the ”April 19th Agreement”
between Serbia and Kosovo. This August he will be taking over
as the director to the Balkans. He also has personal connections
since his wife is Serbian.
The complex make-up of the area makes this story very believable.
Palmer shows how this is a region where politics, ethnicity,
and history blend together with century-old grievances. The
plot begins as Annika Sondergaard, a European Union diplomat,
has a plan to unite the Balkans and stop the in fighting,
enlisting the help of career US diplomat Eric Petrosian. He
is back in Sarajevo at the embassy, with the specter of war
once again hanging over the Balkans. The Bosnian Serb leader,
who had for a time been seeking a stable peace, has turned
back to his nationalist roots and is threatening to pull Bosnia
apart in a bloody struggle for control. Eric is dragged deeper
into the political mayhem while uncovering a plot of blackmail
and ruthless ambitions.
Understanding how the area can be confusing to outsiders Palmer
struggled with the details from his personal experiences.
He commented, “Just because something is complex doesn’t
mean that it needs to be dull. I hope to allow the readers
through the story to see the human side of the diplomatic
profession. I wanted to highlight in the book the awfulness
of man’s inhumanity to man. I was able to write elements
of truth regarding the cruelty of psychopaths, like Radovan
Karabjic, who rose to positions of power. The title is based
on the Balkan proverb, ‘The wolf changes its fur, but
never its character.’”
He also compared the two female main characters, Annika and
Sarah. “Annika is an idealist who is pragmatic, brave,
and an experienced politician. Sarah shares her vision of
trying to make peace in the Balkans but as a CIA operative
she does immoral things to achieve that objective. I put the
Nietzsche quote at the beginning of the book that best describes
Sarah: ‘He who fights with monsters should look to it
that he himself does not become a monster.’ Sarah is
prepared to do whatever it takes to support her cause for
the greater good.”
His next book will also be a stand alone involving a female
diplomat who returns to her homeland of Kyrgystan. He explained
he likes stand-alones, “I learned from my father that
in those types of books authors can create a sense of urgency
and tension. It is putting ordinary people, who are just doing
their job, into extraordinary circumstances, where trouble
seems to find them. I also wanted readers to understand that
foreign-service diplomats are seen as positive and valuable
people who do not cut deals with the devil.”
The Wolf Of Sarajevo is well written with personal
touches from a career diplomat that knows the area well. The
story is believable and realistic.