Ostracized as a kid, Edgar Kellogg has always yearned to be popular. A disgruntled New York corporate lawyer, he's more than ready to leave his lucrative career for the excitement and uncertainty of journalism. When he's offered the post of foreign correspondent in a Portuguese backwater that has sprouted a homegrown terrorist movement, Edgar recognizes the disappeared larger-than-life reporter he's been sent to replace, Barrington Saddler, as exactly the outsize character he longs to emulate. Infuriatingly, all his fellow journalists cannot stop talking about their beloved "Bear," who is no longer lighting up their work lives.
Yet all is not as it appears. Os Soldados Ousados de Barba—"The Daring Soldiers of Barba"—have been blowing up the rest of the world for years in order to win independence for a province so dismal, backward, and windblown that you couldn't give the rat hole away. So why, with Barrington vanished, do terrorist incidents claimed by the "SOB" suddenly dry up?
I wanted to love this newly published offering by the gifted Lionel Shriver but the painfully slow start to this novel made reading it a chore. Edgar Kellogg is a completely unsympathetic and often annoying character; he tries so hard to be arch adn superior that he often made me cringe. The entire situation in Barba, a Portuguese province now the home of a breakaway rebel movement, is absurd- too absurd unfortunately to make for an enjoyable read. Though the book does raise some interesting questions about journalism and sensationalism, the story itself never pulled me in as a reader. The big twist was something I saw coming once Edgar arrived in Barba and I found his inability to follow the breadcrumbs irritating and unbelieveable.
The last third of the book was certainly an improvement both in terms of pacing and dialogue, but it was to little too late to save this book. 2.5 stars.