The Constant Gardener by John le Carre
Tessa Quayle is found murdered in the jungle of Nairobi, along with her native driver. Of the doctor who was with them, Arnold Bluhm, nothing can be found. The two of them had been active in the health and social work involved in trying to improve Africans’ lives in the midst of poverty and war. Justin Quayle, her older husband, is a diplomat in the English Foreign Office in Nairobi.
Quayle is certain Blum didn’t kill his wife or that the doctor had been her lover. He knows the two of them were involved in some sort of serious issue involving a new drug being introduced to the native people for tuberculosis. But the two Quayles kept their professional lives apart to protect each other. He had some ideas of what she was doing, but purposely kept ignorant so as not to prejudice himself in the Foreign Office.
He is given extended leave because of his circumstances. Two police from Scotland Yard grilled Quayle extensively before he was allowed to leave Africa. He was careful not to tell anything of what he did know. Was that a mistake? He decides to follow Tessa Quayle’s lead and follow up the corruption she thought she had found. Soon he finds himself involved with and eluding large corporations, profits, and governments. No one wants him meddling. If he’s careful and lucky, he may discover what is happening. If he’s not, he is dead.
This is a gritty, violent thriller, somewhat graphic at times in the violence and language. Yet the storyline pulled me in. A new drug has been released in Africa, but not the “civilized” countries yet. It appears the pharmaceutical company may have released it before enough testing has been done in the lab. The starving poor Kenyans, Sudanese, and other Africans are receiving this cure. Are they part of the testing to make the drug safe for peoples like the English and Americans?
The ending of the book was unsatisfactory. I’m betting that was purposeful. Life does not tie up in neat little packages with all the I’s dotted and T’s crossed. Neither does this book. The antagonist is always a nebulous “them” partially identified, but never fully. Too many people and organizations are tied up in the potential corruption and cover up. The characters are believable, along with the cover up. The book has a realistic feel to it, as if this sort of drug testing is actually happening. If so, be scared…be very scared.
Notice: Graphic violence, Strong indecent language