Charlie Johnson In The Flames by Michael Ignatieff - review by Francis King

Francis King

Border Trouble

Charlie Johnson In The Flames


Chatto & Windus 150pp £12.99 order from our bookshop

AT FIRST, THE pivot of this short, bare novel seems to be an obsessive desire for revenge. But its protagonist, a veteran journalist, eventually decides that what motivates him is something far more complex. What Charlie Johnson is pursuing is 'Not vengeance, just a reckoning'. He wants his intended murder victim, a Serbian colonel, to understand 'what it actually really means to snuff someone else out'. Johnson himself also wishes to acquire this understanding - 'so that the distinctions, the clarity, that life requires would be restored'.

What fires Johnson to set out on his murderous mission is a horrendous incident that engulfs him when he is on a rash visit to a small, isolated outpost on the Kosovan-Serb border, in search of a scoop. Accompanied by an unreliable local contact and Jacek, the doughty Polish cameraman

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