The title refers to a less-than-flattering description of the Lloyd's market once voiced by a rather disenchanted, and yet still admiring, member. But if inevitably a rich and dynamic City environment may - in fiction at least - attract villains, there is something marvellously invigorating about the mix of phlegmatic rage and expertise with which the honest professionals and their backers retaliate in this book.
This story covers some ground - most particularly Iraq and other hot-spots of the Middle East, which the author knew well before the arrival of the ‘peacemakers’. It was a fascinating experience, to see the palm trees along the banks of the Shatt-al-Arab writhing like seaweed underwater when a storm of wind and rain was raging; and watch the paper thin south Indian sailors manoeuvre the huge dhows with their carved prows and ragged sails into a herringbone pattern from which the storm could not rip them out to be dashed against the shore; or to set off at twilight by boat into the marshes, where the silent shadows of lean skiffs loaded with hay or wood slipped past, and water buffalo immersed up to their shoulders on the edge of the stream gazed with eyes suddenly glowing huge and toffee coloured in the light of the boat.
This narrative also takes the reader into the arcane world of Ultra Large Crude Carriers - the huge oil cargo ships - and the quite extraordinary characters who live on them. Everything that happens in this story does happen: is taken from real authentic life. Such violent and ruthless ambitions do spawn exceptional measures; and moments utterly poetic in their finality.