Con man Max O’Brien takes a personal investigation into his own hands.
Max O’Brien’s nightmare has begun again. Eleven years after the tragic disappearance of his brother, an ambassador in Central America, Max’s nephew, also a diplomat, is assassinated in New Delhi. Max is on the run from police, and this time the professional con man decides to find those responsible for the crime. Determined to track down the truth, he arrives in India just as the country is preparing for war with Pakistan. His inquiry leads him to Kashmir — the heart of the conflict — and the depths of his own soul.
The first book of a thrilling new series, The Kashmir Trap explores the parallel lives of two brothers who have made very different choices. Violence and the growing tension between India and Pakistan set Max on a course of redemption, revenge, and death.
About the authors
Screenwriter Mario Bolduc has written three novels featuring Max O’Brien, originally published in French. The Kashmir Trap starts the series and Tsiganes (The Roma Plot) won the 2008 Arthur Ellis Award for Best Crime Book in French. Mario lives in Montreal.
Nigel Spencer's work includes acting, directing, teaching, educational research and training, journalism, subtitling and co-scripting films, as well as script-doctoring.
He taught the first bilingual graduate course on Comparative Canadian Dramaturgy (l'Université de Sherbrooke), and a performance-based course on Shakespeare at the State University of New York (Plattsburgh).
He has published six books of translated work by Marie-Claire Blais, including Thunder and Light, Augustino and the Choir of Destruction, and Mai at the Predators' Ball, which earned him three Governor General's Literary Awards for Translation.
His theatre translations include three plays by Evelyne de la Chenelière, one of which, September, will be produced by Canadian Stage in Toronto in 2020.
- Unknown, Dewey Diva Picks
Excerpt: The Kashmir Trap: A Max O'Brien Mystery (by (author) Mario Bolduc; translated by Nigel Spencer)
As he parked the Taurus on the third floor of the Montreal General parking garage, Max suddenly realized he’d come without even making a plan. He’d driven back to Canada on a whim, abandoning the most elementary caution. Why had he come anyway? David was in a coma and couldn’t speak, and even if, by some miracle, his nephew recognized him and allowed him to stay, what could they possibly talk about?
Your father asked me to keep an eye out for you, but while you were getting blown up on the other side of the world, I was in Manhattan swindling a banker — again! I’m so sorry. Max sighed. His presence seemed increasingly pointless, wrong, in fact. Never mind. He wanted to be with him, and he ought to be with him.
Max slammed the car door, cast a quick look around, and made his way to the hospital. No cops anywhere. Not surprising, really — terrorists never finish off their victims. They leave them to suffer right to the end. Why not do as much damage as you can? No journalists, either. He learned later that they’d been corralled in a smoking room on the ground floor, and there weren’t that many anyway. The operation was over, and the radio was saying that David had survived … just barely. Now he was stable.
Max did spot a security detail, though, but not the usual hospital agency, which struck him as odd. At the entrance, the regular guards’ uniforms were burgundy. These ones wore navy-blue jackets. They were also armed and looked all ready to play commando.
“Can I help you?” An agent had appeared behind him with two more hanging back, and before Max could answer, the man added, “Journalists aren’t allowed here.”
The guard looked him up and down. Max realized right away that something was off. Two more agents ambled up in case they were needed as backup. There was no time to lose, and Max tore off down the corridor, looking for stairs to get him out of there fast. Already, he was cursing his carelessness.
He bumped into a nurse, who dropped her tray of meds with a howl of fright. First he tried the door to the stairway, which he opened without looking, but other agents had been called in and were swarming up from below, cutting him off. Max jumped over the handrail, delivering a few punches as he went, but it wasn’t enough. He was being held firmly, his head hurting, against the bars of the railing. He’d stumbled upon some real pros.
“What are you doing here?”
“I came to visit my nephew.”
The men looked at one another. One pulled out his cellphone and stepped away to make the call while they took Max back to the corridor. The nurse was crying, and a well-intentioned guard was helping her pick up the things she’d dropped. Max was taken to a windowless room that must have been where the on-duty doctors came for a rest because it had lockers, a wash basin, and a toilet with the door half open. Someone offered him a coffee, which he refused with a grunt. Then they left him alone with one guard. What was this set-up for? Why didn’t they hand him over to the cops? Maybe that was next. A few moments later, he imagined Luc Roberge showing up with an evil grin. After all these years, I finally get my hands on Public Enemy Number One! Luc Roberge. Max had practically forgotten him till now. Of course, it was his turf he’d stepped onto, straight into the cop’s waiting hands. What a screw-up!
When the door opened, it wasn’t Roberge he saw but Béatrice, and the guard had disappeared. Béatrice stood apart from other women her age, thanks to her long years in the diplomatic corps, her manners, and her attitude: lofty, very erect, and impeccably elegant. She was radiant, even in this naked, cold, and impersonal room. Max hadn’t seen her for years, ever since the death of Philippe in 1990, when he’d shown up incognito — thanks to all the “wanted” notices — to be with his brother’s remains. He’d taken a big risk then, too, but he’d trusted Béatrice, who, during the night, had smuggled him into the funeral home on O’Connor Street in Ottawa. While she stood lookout at the back of the hall, he’d gently made his way through the floral arrangements, as though he had the place to himself. Philippe with the discreet and modest red maple leaf pin on his lapel, for which he’d given his life in El Salvador. Max didn’t know how long he’d spent beside the coffin, looking but not crying — he’d already done that. When they were outside in the parking lot, Béatrice announced majestically, “From here on, I never want to hear from you again. Don’t write or speak to me or David. Nothing at all. You no longer exist.”
Then Max had shown her the International Herald-Tribune, the paper Philippe had used to communicate with him once upon a time. Béatrice tossed it in the street. “Never, you hear me? Never.”
So this was to be a double mourning. Her husband was dead, and Max was shoved into the shadows. The idea was to protect David now that Philippe was no longer around. What galled him the most was not this decision; that was hardly unexpected. It was her intransigence … and all with that bedroom voice of hers. Max knew seduction; it was the basis of his craft, and he could only admire the finesse and subtlety of hers. The outcome was the same, but oh, how she said it. Max had gone from being a necessary evil to just plain evil.
A century later, here she was again, standing before him, attractive as ever. She looked disappointed in him, as though his appearance only meant more bad news, just another rock in the avalanche of the past twenty-four hours.
“How is he?” Max asked.
“The doctors are confident; in fact, downright encouraging.”
After long pause, Béatrice said, “I knew you’d come.”
Max smiled sadly. He couldn’t tell if she meant it or if it was just her way of saying it was too late again, that it was time to lay a wreath and choose a picture for the card.
“I want to see him.”
“He’s in a coma. He doesn’t recognize anyone.”
“I want to see him,” Max insisted.
“What’s the point?”
Before she could stop him, Max stepped around her and continued down the corridor. The teary-eyed nurse was gone, and the mercenaries were clogging the coffee machine, leaving only one guard at the door on the other side. He rushed Max to keep him from going in, while others moved in to back him up. Then behind him, Max heard Béatrice: “Okay, it’s okay.” The man hesitated, then stepped aside. Max glanced across the hall at Béatrice and opened the door. The room was in shadow, but his eyes easily spotted the bed in the corner behind a curtain. He approached and pulled aside the curtain. The bed was empty.
Just when it seems that the reader never is going to get any answers, the author pulls out a brilliant trick to wrap up the storyline perfectly, pulling all the disparate pieces together into a cohesive, satisfying whole.
Reviewing the Evidence
Readers who enjoy leisurely storytelling will be at home.
Other titles by Mario Bolduc
Other titles by Nigel Spencer
Max O'Brien Mysteries 3-Book Bundle
The Kashmir Trap / The Roma Plot / The Tanzania Conspiracy
A Twilight Celebration
Thunder and Light
Who Are You and Why Are You Here?
Tales of International Development
Is This Who We Are?
14 Questions about Quebec