Reciclador (The Recycler)
There’s a saying: God made Colombia so beautiful, He decided to compensate by filling it with the cruellest, vilest people.
The perfect setting for a crime novel then? Of this type, yes. The nature of the story lends itself perfectly to Medellin, a city where drugs, kidnap and murder were a way of life. This work of fiction is informed by the author’s own experience in Britain’s Special Forces, combatting terrorism and kidnap in the late 1980s during Pablo Escobar’s drug reign in Colombia.
Escobar is the fictional Alvaro’s role model, and there are similarities with both crime bosses. Alvaro’s cartel includes the nasty henchman Henao and, below him, Tavo Jimenez, a violent man working a protection racket in Medellin. Putting the squeeze on one local business is young Juan Corales. That business is a family restaurant La Bodeguita. Tavo and Juan are asking for a contribution to a community project, only this isn’t a voluntary handout, it’s a demand for money. The restaurants owners are married couple Yessica and Marcus Hamm. She, a well-respected member of the community that does much for youth and women’s rights. He, a Swiss national with a mysterious past, or is he?
Yessica’s father, the anthropologist/professor Hector Sanchez, offers advice on how the couple might avoid the attention of the Alvaro cartel. It seems to be helping, at first. Then a body is found. The murdered boy puts the Sanchez family in danger after they decide to hide the corpse. It leads to a deadly clash with the Alvaro cartel resulting in the violent kidnapping of the pregnant Yesica and her husband.
What follows is a tense stand-off of negotiation and threat. As Hector Sanchez tries to put together the ransom money, Marcus’s past catches up with him and international interest (business, bankers, the US Government) clashes with local involvement (police, gangs).
It’s an edge of your seat read, visually told.
Reciclador (the recycler) has the kind of title and cover that suggest independent publishing. Open the book and you’ll find other clues; the white paper, the ragged right justification, the unusual indentation. Whilst these issues might harm sales they don’t prohibit a 5 star rating. Not when the story and its telling hold my attention throughout, as this one did.
About Joff Sharpe:
Recicaldor is the debut novel of author Joff Sharpe who has written about financial fugitives for Newsweek, Huffington Post and Hong Kong's largest circulation English-speaking newspaper The South China Morning Post. His previous book, 'Who Dares Wins in Business' combines wisdom from his early career as an SAS special forces officer and his role today as an executive in a multi-billion dollar investment company.
Medical school drop-out Yessica Sanchez opens a restaurant in her home town of Medellin, the most dangerous city in the world. She falls in love with a Swiss backpacker and together they enjoy a simple, idyllic lifestyle. But the traveller, Marcus Hamm, carries a dark secret and when a man is killed outside the restaurant it triggers a series of events that threaten their lives and will test their relationship to its limits. Soon other interested parties like the CIA, mercenaries and Colombian police are competing to secure the huge financial prize that they believe to be at stake. Only Yessica's father, an unassuming but cunning professor of anthropology, can save his family from a terrible fate. He'll stop at nothing to do so. The backdrop to the story includes some of the more colourful aspects of Medellin, such as its spectacular festival of flowers and Young Women's Talent Competition, and a host of interesting characters from every part of Colombian society.