The Jackal’s Share is Christopher Morgan Jones’ second novel. Jones worked as a London private investigator and has now become a writer of espionage thrillers, centered around his literary doppleganger, Ben Webster. I suppose the real life of an investigator might be rather mundane and procedural in general, peppered with the occasional exciting, life-threatening situation and Jones certainly writes to this formula, though, while probably honest, it isn’t very entertaining.
The story begins as Ben is assigned to do a background check on Darius Qazai, at the behest of Qazai himself, who is trying to organize an immense business transaction with an American company, and has been rejected due to a potentially damaging accusation of aiding in the smuggling of antiquities out of his native Iran. Qazai wants Webster to disprove the charges and vet Qazai as an honorable businessman, to counter the investigative report obtained by the American buyers from another agency.
Webster finds himself travelling to exotic locations, meeting Qazai and his family at his homes in London, Dubai and Italy, and while the locations are interesting and beautifully described, the action is negligible. Webster asks a lot of questions, but beyond that, nothing much happens. It is not until the final third of the book that pieces of the truth about Qazai and his immense wealth are revealed, and the action picks up with car chases, kidnappings, threats, bullies and murders.
I won’t say I didn’t enjoy reading The Jackal’s Share, I just wish there had been more espionage, danger and action and fewer Jane Austen-like social calls and conversations which related the action, but completely lacked energy or entertainment value. It didn’t help that Ben Webster as a character, was a bit of a wet rag, completely lacking in moxie or prowess. Not every PI has to be a Phillip Marlowe, but Jones’ Ben Webster is so far off the mark one would be hard-pressed to admit the two have anything in common beyond a job title.