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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction

The Eyes of Lira Kazan

Eva Joly
Judith Perrignon

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To purchase The Eyes of Lira Kazan

Title: The Eyes of Lira Kazan
Authors: Eva Joly and Judith Perrignon
Genre: Novel
Written: 2011 (Eng. 2012)
Length: 285 pages
Original in: French
Availability: The Eyes of Lira Kazan - US
The Eyes of Lira Kazan - UK
The Eyes of Lira Kazan - Canada
Les yeux de Lira - Canada
The Eyes of Lira Kazan - India
Les yeux de Lira - France
  • French title: Les yeux de Lira
  • Translated by Emily Read

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Our Assessment:

B : fine atmosphere and some action, but far too little behind it

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Publishers Weekly . 27/8/2012 .
The Telegraph . 18/6/2012 Jake Kerridge

  From the Reviews:
  • "Corruption knows no national boundaries, the authors suggest, providing a clear-eyed look at the complex choices and personal sacrifices facing reformers." - Publishers Weekly

  • "The political commentary here is sledgehammer-subtle but the numerous characters and locales are deftly sketched and it is genuinely exciting." - Jake Kerridge, The Telegraph

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       The Eyes of Lira Kazan quickly establishes itself as a thriller of multinational conspiracies. It begins in Nigeria, in July 2010, where Nwankwo Ganbo has gotten too nosy about some government corruption and finds he has to flee the country with his family; Britain has offered him a refuge -- and a position at Oxford -- but in return he can't continue his investigations, or speak publicly about Nigeria. Successive chapters then take readers to Russia, the south of France, and finally the Faroe Islands.
       The bad guy is Sergei Louchsky, a Russian entrepreneur who has made it very, very big. His personal piggy bank is Grind Bank, a house of cards build up in the Faroes run by Sunleif Stephensen. Its business model is not a promising one:

Grind Bank, as it was called, was lending money at rates that undercut any competition, in exchange for which it asked for no guarantees, simply that its borrowers should buy its own shares with some of the money being lent. The bank's shares rose thanks to the banks own money.
       Louchsky saw it as a useful place to launder his mony -- but, as he reminds Sunleif: "I can smash my piggy bank whenever I want !" The way things are going, however, it looks like it's collapsing faster than he can smash it -- and inconveniently Sunleif knows more about Louchsky's business than is healthy for him.
       Russian journalist Lira Kazan is also curious about Louchky's affairs, while in France a judge and his independent-minded clerk take an interest in some suspicious goings-on as well. Louchsky, however, is not a man who feels nooses tightening, and has an easy fix for everything: kill whoever gets in his way. Or maim, if that sends the appropriate message. And it helps that he has what are obviously some great connections in very high places, who do their best to make life easier for him
       Naturally, Nwankwo, Lira, and the judge's assistant wind up teaming up to take down the big, bad guy, as the novel builds up to Louchsky's lavish birthday celebration at Versailles, where even the French President will be one of the 500 guests. As Nwankwo, Lira, and friends know, Louchsky is a tough customer: along the way they and others face blackmail, lose their jobs, have their offices and homes torn up. Oh yeah, and bodies litter Louchsky's path, as one person after the next dies under mysterious and not so mysterious circumstances. Some of the help comes from on high too: there's even eventually a superinjunction in place, preventing publication of all the damning evidence in The Guardian.
       All this makes for the solid outlines of a thriller with a lot of potential, but not quite for a thriller itself. People get killed or attacked or sacked when they become inconvenient, and wrenches get lobbed in their exposure-plans at practically every turn, but there's far too little (indeed practically nothing) about how all this happens. Who are the figures in the background pulling the strings ? And how exactly do they pull the strings ? Yes, yes, the powerful are all-powerful -- but there are still some basic logistics that just isn't that easy to pull off at the snap of a finger. There's paperwork, there are channels, there are other people in the bureaucracy who must inconveniently be satisfied (or fooled) -- and Joly and Perrignon give the reader none of that.
       The entire novel is like the description of some grand deus ex machina-driven conspiracy, where the high and mighty seem to be able to control almost everything merely my wishing it. Add to that the fact that the conspiracies themselves -- Louchsky's dirty dealings with various governments and the like -- are little more than hinted at -- lots of money is exchanged, dubious contracts signed, but there are few details about the workings of any of this -- and it all feels rather thin. Instead of focusing on what the bad guys do, Joly and Perrignon pad the novel by humanizing the good: touching scenes of Nwankwo and his family, and of course Lira and her eyes, her eyes ..... All well and good, but they would have done better to fill in more details about the actual thriller-elements.
       The Eyes of Lira Kazan is a passable thriller -- many of these scenes are quite well-written, and the back and forth presentation has a lot of potential, some of which if fulfilled. But overall the book feels skeletal: there's just too little meat to it, the high body count actually undermining much of the thrill of the novel. It's a screenplay novel, and the lack of depth won't be that much of an issue in the inevitable film version -- but from a novel one can expect more.

- M.A.Orthofer, 21 November 2012

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The Eyes of Lira Kazan: Reviews: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Authors:

       French magistrate and politician Eva Joly was born in 1943.

       French co-author Judith Perrignon was born in 1967.

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