1818 Society Newsletter

No. 77, November/December 2000

Veronica Li's Nightfall in Mogadishu

Reviewed by Anne Vaughn

Veronica Li, last seen in the Bank's East Africa Department before her retirement, has turned her writing skills to fiction. She has made good use of her Bank experience in general and of her work in Somalia in particular to write a tale of action and adventure, Nightfall in Mogadishu.

She is also being adventurous herself in testing the waters of the new computer technology for her first novel. Nightfall in Mogadishu is currently appearing as an e-book that can be downloaded onto a diskette and printed out. It is also available as a print-on-demand book, which is not only printed but bound before being delivered to the purchaser. The publisher is 1stBooks Library, and the book, in either form, may be purchased at www.Istbooks.com. If you have never read an e-book before, Veronica's thriller is a good place to start.

Her story is set in the year 1990, just at the time that Somalia began its disintegration into anarchy and chaos. It is an ideal backdrop for an adventure tale with non-stop action. There is plenty of murder and mayhem not to mention evil, corruption and a little sex thrown in for good measure. Susan Chen, CIA agent undercover at the World Bank, is on her first major case which involves the death in suspicious circumstances, of Andrew Barnett, the World Bank Resident Representative in Mogadishu. The police, the UNDP Office in charge of security, and the World Bank view the death as no more than a tragic accident, but Susan and the CIA know better. They know but are keeping quiet about a nearly invisible wound found on the body at the base the neck that is the hallmark of a known terrorist and assassin, Hamid. The question is, who hired Hamid and why?

Susan has little difficulty getting the job as Barnett's replacement -there are no other applicants. Once in Somalia, she soon discovers that there is something fishy going on with the foreign exchange auction and that her predecessor, at the time of his death, had been looking into the
activities of a firm going by the name of Eastern Horizon who appear to be doing exceptionally well at the auction. When she starts asking questions about it, she meets a wall of wary silence. As her investigations continue, the death toll mounts and Susan finds herself caught up in a maelstrom of high-level corruption and violence.

Veronica's knowledge of Somalia shows in the vivid and memorable images she draws of this hot and arid land and its long-suffering people. Those who have worked in Somalia will immediately recognize scenes and landmarks and those who have never been there will feel as if they had. Her characters, too, are sharply drawn. She presents a widely varied sampling of recognizable types in the development field, each one fleshed out and distinctive.

She is not always kind to the World Bank or its staff, and is especially hard on those she portrays as having lost sight of development goals in their efforts at advancement and self-aggrandizement. I found myself trying to guess at the real life models of many of her characters, but Veronica insists that they are all fictional, a distillation of the many people and traits that she has encountered over the years.

Her characters, sometimes even quite minor ones, are well developed and believable; and she seems to have a special touch with villains-they are characters you just love to hate. But she captures, too, the courage and warmth of the Somali people as well as the commitment and basic decency of those who have tried, however unsuccessfully, to help them. And Susan Chen may be a gutsy CIA agent doing in the enemy with her bare hands (with a little help from a table leg and a hat pin), but she is an agent with a heart of gold and a keen interest in development issues. I am looking forward to her next adventure.


Somalia: Inspiration for a Novel

About Viking Voyager: An Icelandic Memoir

About Confucius Says

About Journey Across the Four Seas



Nightfall in Mogadishu

(A thriller)

Copyright © 2006 Veronica Li. All rights reserved.
ial, Helvetica, sans-serif">Copyright © 2006 Veronica Li. All rights reserved.