In Flames: A Thriller

In Flames: A Thriller

by Richard Hilary Weber

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780553393781
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/03/2015
Sold by: Random House
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 188
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Richard Hilary Weber, a native of Brooklyn and a Columbia University graduate, has taught at the universities of Stockholm and Copenhagen, and has been a scriptwriter for French and Swedish filmmakers. He lives in Provence, France.

Read an Excerpt

San Iñigo

Let me tell you something about lining your pockets even when the effort—whether driven by greed or mere survival—will probably kill you.

Because the truth is, had I been able to land a stateside job after graduating Princeton—no, let me amend that—if I could have landed a job anywhere else, I’d never have gone to San Iñigo and never have seen with such terrible clarity and closeness the many ways a person could die there. Which to some extent may explain why, though no one was threatening me when I arrived, I felt vaguely anxious from the moment I stepped off the plane into the hot wet air of what travel brochures called “the paradise island of the western Caribbean, a pristine passage to sublimity, discovered 1496 . . .”

In tourist bureau photos, island colors were dense and vivid under brilliant sun, impossible to tell at a glance whether you were looking at growth or decay, the island’s highlight a rainforest river glistening white over mountain rapids before turning caffe latte beige on its way down to the sea.

My job, a day’s hard journey by road from those scenic mountains and river, was supposed to keep me in San Iñigo city, safe and occupied, which meant the formless worries I experienced on arrival were absurd, as I knew very well who was in charge, that our own people ran the place, we were the entrepreneurs, not the barbarians. Despite this, anyone in my shoes might have felt the way I did landing on that island republic for the first time. No matter how great the opportunity for me—Dan Shedrick, junior architect for the new harbor and Xy Corp. facilities, a year’s contract freshly signed and notarized—my first up-close view of San Iñigo was less than encouraging.

Armored tanks ringed the airport, turret cannons aiming away from runways as though fearing attacks not by outside invaders but from forces within. Before leaving home, I’d checked the U.S. State Department’s Web site, and although the facts appeared less than enticing—northern virtue eyeing tropical depravity—I thought I detected wiggle room for hope.

“The potential for violence by terrorists and other criminal elements continues to be notorious in certain areas of San Iñigo. Outside the protected zones, armed assaults and robberies continue to be a part of everyday life, and U.S. citizens have been victims of violent crimes, including kidnapping and homicide. Firearms are prevalent in San Iñigo, and altercations can often turn violent . . .”

In other words, oppression didn’t create saints, only potential killers: all victims were dangerous, permanently aggrieved.

My harbor job was in a protected zone, the entire capital city a heavily patrolled world unto itself, where I couldn’t even bring my dog in from the States, and with much parting sorrow had given Felix, a devoted golden retriever, to a neighbor on Garden Place in Brooklyn, my dog and I and my neighbor all of us blubbering. Apart from missing Felix, the abrupt discomfort I felt on entering San Iñigo wasn’t any specific anxiety I could actually pinpoint—the tanks around the airfield weren’t aiming at me. Nor could I nail down a precise instant when vague fears seized me, replacing curiosity and enthusiasm, a sensation of nausea rising from a dread of increasingly obvious discrepancies as I rode into the city from the airport, the symptoms a sourness in my throat, sharp taste on my tongue, growing knots in my stomach while passing lugubrious mile after mile of thatched roof, cinder block shanties lining the highway, the barrios populares where the poor lived. The shanties didn’t appear in any tourist brochures, and the tanks were facing the shanties. Their message: to endure, not enjoy.

While my job in San Iñigo wasn’t exactly a Frank Lloyd Wright assignment, the salary beat anything I could barely land an interview for stateside, my Princeton degree and varsity tennis letter, Deke brother and Cottage Club years worth nearly nada in the endless recession back home. Up to that point my life had been sympathetic and ordered, a steady and protective progress of parochial and private schooling, made more placid by the hope, indeed the continued reassurance, that life would always continue this way. And then the bottom fell out and the long slump struck. San Iñigo was supposed to be different—regular paychecks, warm nights, tropical fancies fulfilled—several steps up a new ladder of revived progression.

But the ride from the airport into Ciudad San Iñigo wasn’t promising all that much. The cab air-conditioning conked out, windows stuck shut, the driver muttering few words of English—hello, tip, hot—and in full view on the front seat, a shotgun beside an open box of cartridges. Wiping a misted window, I regarded an endless parade of shantytowns. Oil rigs were so far offshore, I couldn’t see a trace from the coast, but I knew platform towers lay somewhere out there beyond the horizon, and they were the only reason our people tolerated perpetual heat in San Iñigo. As the taxi approached the city, views improved, forested foothills and serrated mountain ridges framed a panorama of spectacular scenery, the island alive with colors. Anyone would fall in love with the landscape; indifference to the setting was impossible. The first time I saw the San Iñigo coastline at sundown, I lingered in the hotel garden with a welcome drink in my hand and watched the vista grow even more beautiful for about fifteen, twenty minutes. The distant hills and winding roads, the military base, all these acquired a yellow tint, turning pink to pale green, blue and red and gold, this unvarying transformation occurring whether you drank too much rum or sipped only iced tea. The offshore oil rigs remained invisible, shantytowns remote, nothing in San Iñigo marred the knockout views from hilltop hotels and restaurants. The island may have been full of frustrations and fears, real or imagined, but at sunset each day you felt a kind of happiness there, when for a few moments you indulged crepuscular insights, moved by some peculiar mix of fading lights and fragrances of new flowers and fruits that brought back childhood memories and revived old hopes, or at other times induced a feeling of something precious once lost and now almost impossible to recall. You picked your spot to stand and watch, too mesmerized to judge whether the place was acquiring meaning for you or leaking it away, the island tottering at some halfway point between creating or destroying.

West of the city, floodlights illuminated a shadowy black lava mass of the El Moro headland and a hundred-foot white stone statue of Cristo Redentor, the island’s tallest structure, the immense San Iñigo pride of Christ the Redeemer, His arms stretched forward in benediction over city and sea.

Granted, San Iñigo wasn’t really ours, not legally, I knew that much, but it might as well have been. And I wasn’t there in military uniform, I was with the company—a harmless unarmed civilian, no bull’s-eye on my back—still I nearly slipped into cardiac arrest the first time a dark hand touched my arm, coming up from behind me without warning. “I take you bags, señor . . .”

The Nacional hotel lobby was cool, polished lava floors spotless. Someone was always mopping the dark stone. I left my suitcases yawning open on the bed in my room, too depressing a sight, and called for a cab. Pocketing a letter of introduction from my stepfather—an often tightfisted man, though free with kindly words—I rode down the coast to the Saint Ignatius beach, golf, and tennis club. A reassuring sight, the club could have been in the Hamptons, the entire Maidstone airlifted directly down to Latin America, albino members and all. My relief was palpable, serendipity my guide: the familiar comforted, and the unfamiliar didn’t have to be sought as it would find you soon enough.

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In Flames: A Thriller 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
MaraBlaise More than 1 year ago
Dan Shedrick takes a job as a junior architect at an American firm in San Iñigo and it doesn't take him long before he starts an affair with the wife of a resort owner. But then everything goes south when a radio personality is murdered... This is short book, I read it quickly, but it has taken me ages to write this review. Usually I try to write the review as soon as possible while everything is fresh in my head. But I had quite a lot of time before this review would be up and frankly I have put it off a bit. I still try to grasp what the point of the book was. I thought the murder was the important part when I started reading the book, but now I'm not sure. Is this a spy novel? Is this some kind of first-love-gone-bad-book? I have actually no idea; it didn't feel like a thriller. It felt that the book was built up by a lot of descriptions and way too long dialogs. I still don't understand why the radioman was killed. There was never really an explanation to it. I just wished the book had focused on the murder, got an explanation for it. Skipped the spying and the kidnapping part or at least made it more in tuned with the rest of the story. It would probably also has been a good idea to make Dan a more interesting a likable character, what did he do all the day? Work? No idea, he seemed just to drink rum and sleep with his lover all the time... This book left be with a feeling of dissatisfaction. If it would have been longer and the story more explored would it have been a much more enjoyable reading experience.
MariaD1 More than 1 year ago
My Thoughts on In Flames by Richard Hilary Weber I received a complimentary copy of this book as a part of a book tour for a fair and honest review. A lover of mysteries, thrillers and romantic suspense, I couldn’t wait to read In Flames by Richard H. Weber. Set in in a lush tropical paradise and filled with intrigue, forbidden romance and betrayal at almost every turn, Dan Shedrick, Mr. Weber’s protagonist, is a surprising choice as a central character. Especially when you take into account his age, experience and naiveté. While I found Mr. Weber’s writing style easy to read and mostly enjoyable, I have to admit that I don’t really believe this fits in the thriller genre; I’m just not sure what genre I would put it in. A recent graduate from Princeton with no job prospects, Dan Shedrick manages to “luck” into a job working for the XY Company as a junior architect designing oil rigs. Sent to a lush tropical paradise, San Inigo, Dan starts work and immediately falls in with the local “ex-pats”(Americans living on the island) and their lifestyle. While life on the island for the ex-pats is one spent drinking, eating and playing sports (tennis, golf, swimming), the island is hardly the tropical paradise one would typically expect. The government is clearly corrupt and being bolstered by U.S. support in exchange for oil. Life outside of the ex-pat community is full of danger with armed rebels determined to get their island back and Dan soon finds himself involved in ways he could never have imagined. While Mr. Weber does a good job developing Dan’s character, he’s not a character I was able to connect with or even really like. While Dan is clearly young (just graduated from college so I am assuming around 22-23), he’s naïve, foolish and morally weak. Beginning an affair with his country club host’s wife is just one of the many things Dan does which gets him into hot water. Agreeing to become a “spy” and solve the murder of a local “radio celebrity” for the American Embassy attaché (AKA CIA Station Chief) for additional money (but no training what-so-ever) is beyond believable (I seriously hope the CIA doesn’t recruit local talent this way). As if Dan doesn’t have enough on his plate, he’s invited to attend a local “Santeria” ceremony, where as luck would have it, he gets kidnapped by the local rebels, who are being led by a former priest whose fall from grace was a result of Dan’s spying attempts. The secondary characters are colorful and morally ambiguous at best. We meet Elaine, the young wife of the country club owner, who uses Dan for more than just an affair. As one of the central secondary characters, Elaine is colorful and interesting; she introduces Dan to the CIA Station Chief for money, is somehow connected to the death of the local “radio celebrity”, and literally hands Dan over to the rebels on a silver platter. We also meet the “Padre”, a priest in trouble with the local Bishop and a man who has a lot more on his plate than one would expect for someone in his position. Things that eventually lead to his being de-frocked and expelled by the local bishop. We also meet the local “general” in control of the island; a man who was once Elaine’s lover and thinks she is somehow involved in the death of the “radio celebrity”. He’s not interested in justice or concerned about the welfare of the local people and makes it clear to Dan that he intends to jail whoever gets in his way. Will Dan find a way to get free from the rebel who have kidnapped him? Will he ever solve the murder of the local “radio celebrity”? And will he choose to remain on the island or flee back to the US when he gets the chance? You’ll have to read In Flames to find out.
jayfwms More than 1 year ago
The plot was imaginative and exciting. The characters were well-developed and understandable. The descriptive language was just about the right level to capture the feel of a tropical island. While the story arc was exciting and suspenseful, the strongest point of the book is the moral dilemma for the main character. The reader definitely has to pause and think how they might have responded. I liked the book both for the interesting story and the thought process it engendered.