Weston Kogi, who lives in London, visits his African homeland Alcacia after a long time.

It should be a short stay.

Quickly there, quickly back: “I couldn't wait to leave.” He is the same as Gil Scott-Heron, who once sang: “Home Is Where the Hatred Is”.

Fifteen years ago, Weston fled the country because of massive unrest.

He got help from his aunt, at whose funeral he now appears.

There he meets an old friend who sets the plot of Tade Thompson's thriller “Wild Card” rolling: “Church.

That grin.

Straight out of my high school nightmares. "

Kai Spanke

Editor in the features section.

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Up to this point one might think that the book would discuss whether and under what conditions one can return to the once abandoned homeland.

But Thompson, who is known as an author of science fiction literature, is only marginally interested in such reflections.

He thinks a rapid plot is more important.

Excessive Violence?

If she pushes the action, I'd love to.

Overdrawn figures?

Everything for the impact of the story.

Sex and action in abundance?

Somehow you have to earn the label “Pageturner”.

Until the backbone breaks

In any case, Weston tells his former schoolmate that he works on the homicide squad in England. In fact, he's a security guard in a supermarket. The lie broke into him a comic, even Tarantinoesque parforcer ride through the underworld and higher circles of his homeland. Because an investigator comes in handy: the consensus politician Pa Busi was murdered. Perpetrator unknown. Weston should clarify the case, as quickly as possible, as efficiently as possible. He gets the order from the Liberation Front of Alcacia (motto: "In Guns We Trust"), which belongs to the Church, as well as from their rival, the People's Christian Army.

Both rebel groups kidnap Weston one after the other and show him how to deal with enemies: “A man was chained to a post with his wrists and his ankles to a pickup truck.

He screamed as the pickup drove away from the post.




Then the spine tore, blood and guts spattered, then I was the one who screamed. “Now it's up to Weston to play off the groups and the meddling secret service against each other.

A chameleon-like cartoon

Thompson borrows the staff from hardboiled noir. On the one hand, there is the femme fatale, who makes the hero very fuzzy, on the other hand, you have to constantly worry about your ex- and now-again-girlfriend Nana, who is nonetheless, the reader suspects early on, more abysmal. than initially assumed. Much of this thriller is based on classic genre patterns, which in the end produce an amazing result: The punch line is that after all the bestiality and the many plot twists, there is no special punch line. You get what you expect. When Nana finally begins to give a short but concise self-assessment, this testosterone-dripping novel turns into a plea for female self-determination that makes the majority of the male characters look old.

The way there adheres to the customs of the adventure story, in which a hero and entourage go out and pass tests. Then you think you are reading a detective story that leads from conversation to conversation, before suddenly loud potential bosses rattle their sabers again. Weston grapples with snakes, scorpions, military, bio-weapons, and Somali pirates. Here a land mine detonates, there mosquitoes fall on the protagonist, who is as terrified of nothing as malaria. Basically he is a chameleon-like caricature: too cool, too rabid, too confident, too indifferent, too daring, too crazy.

No, whether you can return home is really not the decisive question here.

Actually, it's about how unrestrained the content and form of a novel can be designed without it collapsing.

Tade Thompson found the right formula.

Tade Thompson: "Wild Card".


Translated from the English by Karl-Heinz Ebert.

Suhrkamp Verlag, Berlin 2021. 329 pp., Br., € 10.95.