THE WRECKAGE is a major departure for me. Instead of being tense psychological mystery, it’s a big international conspiracy thriller set amid the aftermath of the global financial crisis and the Iraq War.
The story is told through the eyes of several people – the first of them, Luca Terracini, a Pulitzer prize-winning journalist who is living ‘outside the wire’ in Baghdad, investigating a series of violent bank robberies and the disappearance of billions of dollars in reconstruction funds.
Meanwhile, in London, one of my most enduring characters, Vincent Ruiz, rescues a young woman, Holly Knight, from a violent boyfriend but wakes next morning to discover that she’s robbed him. It was a complete set-up. By the time he finds Holly, her boyfriend has been tortured and murdered. Clearly, they’ve stolen something from someone who will stop at nothing to get it back.
Elsewhere in the City, Richard North, an international banker, has been missing for five days, leaving a heavily pregnant wife and a young son behind. Nobody seems to take his disappearance seriously, yet he holds the key to what’s happening in Iraq and in London – or he did, until it was stolen from him.
Like all of my past novels, THE WRECKAGE was triggered (I never use word inspired) by real-life events. This particular seed was planted in December 2009 when the UK Observer published an interview with the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime. He admitted that during the height of the Global Financial Crisis, major western banks were on the brink of collapse and so desperate for funds that they laundered US$352 billion for drug cartels and organised crime gangs.
I then came across a second story, a brilliant piece of investigative journalism in Vanity Fair by James Steele and Donald Barlett. They revealed details of the largest airlift of US currency in the history of the Federal Reserve. Stacks of $100 bills were packed into bricks, assembled into large pallets and loaded onto cargo planes bound for Baghdad. It amounted to 281 million individual banknotes or 363 tons of money. Twelve billion US dollars in total – of which nine billion has never been accounted for.
Missing. Gone. Stolen. Spirited away. It doesn’t matter. For a novelist these stories are a different sort of currency. Pure gold.
THE WRECKAGE is fiction, of course, but I’ve managed to sprinkle it with real-life events and news reports, making it feel as though the story unfolding in real time for the reader.
Some of the characters are like old friends. Vincent Ruiz and Joe O’Loughlin have appeared in previous novels, but never one with such a broad canvas where the stakes are quite so high. Ultimately, it all comes back to money, politics and power. Who has it, who wants it and who’s ultimately going to pay…
Michael Robotham’s latest thriller THE WRECKAGE is published by Sphere June 9 2011.