Privilege falling part on a Greek island: The Destroyers by Christopher Bollen
The Destroyers is a tense and ominous novel about childhood friendship and about the lengths people go to protect their power and assets. Ian Bledsoe flees the death of his disliked father to the Greek island retreat of his old schoolfriend, Charlie, whose life seems untroubled by worry or money troubles, the opposite of Ian’s own. The situation on Patmos is far from idyllic, however, with social tensions and shady dealings that start coming out of the woodwork just as Ian thinks he might have found a refuge. This literary thriller becomes a complicated web of priorities as Ian tries to work out just what is going on which Charlie.
Bollen’s writing style is full of witty observations and the narrative becomes gripping as the strands really start to take off, all held together from the perspective of Ian. He is a classic friend figure, a fellow rich schoolfriend of Charlie’s who is now saddled with a lack of inheritance and an inferiority complex about life. The importance of Ian and Charlie’s childhood game Destroyers adds a vivid touch, a thread of danger running from the start until the imagined threat starts to appear real. The novel shows the modern world as a place divided and tense, with the refugee crisis, the collapse of the Greek economy, and the thread of extremist violence all forming the backdrop of the story. At times this seems a little irrelevant – Ian’s time in Panama is shown in perhaps too much detail – but what Bollen creates is a thriller about privilege and power that focuses more on characters and on the society that made them who they are.
Comparisons to Tartt’s The Goldfinch are easily made, though Ian does not feel similar to her protagonist and Bollen’s style isn’t as distinctive. However, the tense world evoked – one in which modern threats recreate old problems – is similar and the complicated formation of Ian and Charlie’s now-rekindled friendship feels similar to her work. The Destroyers is for anyone looking for a modern novel that looks deep at self-interest and self-presentation amongst a privileged world whilst also keeping up a tense, thriller narrative.