“Adventure” and “intrigue” are two of the last words you would expect to associate with a novel in which the main character works a dead-end job as the associate editor of a waste management trade magazine. But Derek Winkler’s debut isn’t typical. When Otis Wilson travels to the remote tropical island of Pitouie – an “independent corporate freehold” with no industry, economy, or natural resources, just a group of industrialists willing to fork over big bucks to dump their waste into the island’s volcano – what he finds is much more complicated and strange than he expects, and the plot’s well-calculated twists keep the reader guessing.
The novel uses alternating chapters to uncover pieces of Pitouie’s puzzle while also telling a different story set 35 years earlier in a small Arctic military station and an Inuit village. Although this back-and-forth style initially hampers the story’s momentum, the novel hits its stride near the halfway point as the drama and danger escalate, and the reader starts to see parallels and connections between the two stories.
What makes Winkler’s novel stand out from other tales of corporate intrigue is his sly and subtle use of humour. Typical adventure stories depend on violence, but Winkler’s comedic timing and clever plot twists keep this tale fresh.