Heart-stopping contemporary thriller about warfare by remote control
Today’s tech-driven warfare is increasingly conducted by unmanned aircraft across vast distances. But in Drone, his second crime novel, Bart-Jan Kazemier makes clear the human factor remains as pivotal as ever.
The prologue cites exchanges between troops on the ground and their distant command during an Afghan mission. It appears that something went wrong, but what? The suicide of Rens Veltman twelve years later spurs his girlfriend, Merijn Turing, and Miriam Veltman, his sister, to lift the lid off this incident and uncover the government’s guilt in the cover-up. The only hard evidence of what went wrong during the mission in that Afghan village, Orta, exists on a hard drive with encrypted data they have in their possession. But anyone who comes into contact with this information risks his or her life.
They approach politician Jan Kassels to persuade him to vote against a drone acquisition, but he promptly vanishes into thin air. When Merijn too goes missing, Miriam asks the former commando Eliot Koler to help her. Koler was in Orta with Rens, and may know how to decipher the information on the hard drive. On her way to meeting him, Miriam is run off the road and killed in cold blood by a hit man on the payroll of military intelligence. Eliot arrives just too late to save her. He takes this as a grim warning, realizing everything will be put in play to render him harmless.
Meanwhile we follow Defence Minister Ava Rodenburg’s attempt to push a bill through parliament involving the purchase of a drone. Ava thinks it is essential to add unmanned aircraft to the nation’s arsenal if the Netherlands is to have a role in global affairs. “Who purchases new technology will determine the future,” is her motto. She dreams of becoming a significant figure in history, just like her father, who was a defence minister before her and led the fight against terrorism post-9/11. Her drone legislation is defeated, however, when one of her coalition partners votes against it and another, Jan Kassels, fails to show up for the vote and later turns up dead on the golf course.
In this cleverly constructed, extremely tense spy thriller, Kazemier hurtles the reader at great speed to the end, when what took place in Orta is finally revealed. By alluding to real political scandals and subterfuges, he subtly manages to make his story, set in the not-too-distant future, more than a little plausible.