The Malta Independent 22 February 2020, Saturday

Difrejn Il-Falkun

Wednesday, 7 August 2019, 09:05 Last update: about 8 months ago

Lou Drofenik

Author: Richard Attard. Published by Horizons

Difrejn Il-Falkun is Richard Attard's fourth novel. This thriller opens with Louis Briffa's poem Falco peregrinus / Lill-falkun Gustav - which describes the falcon's instinct to hunt and kill - setting the scene for this novel's thesis.

...Spettakolari l-mewt

li noffri f'nofs is-sema ...

Difrejn Il-Falkun, set in contemporary Malta, is rooted in what is happening around the world at present. It is about the covert actions governments take wherever refugees are on the move, in order to uncover the terrorists among them. By quoting newspaper articles, which reported that Malta was the initial stopover of the terrorists who caused havoc in Europe, Attard makes his story credible. It is clear from the very start, that this book will be about terrorists claiming to be asylum seekers.

Opening in Libya, with an attack on a defenceless family trying to find a boat to take them to Europe, Attard paints a picture of the vulnerability of authentic refugees, and the ruthlessness of terrorists who want to achieve their aims. The story moves to Malta. A top secret agency SIKTA, aided by an American Intelligence officer is created to stop acts of terrorism before they happen. Its codename is Falcon's Talons or Difrejn il-Falkun, and it comes directly under the jurisdiction of the President of Malta. The members of this agency are highly intelligent and extremely motivated. This is a group of people aiming for success. Attard paints a picture of a group of very relatable individuals, thus adding another layer of interest as the story unfolds.

This story moves quickly. After we meet the members of the secret agency, we meet the terrorists and their leader and learn of their terrible plan aimed at killing a multitude of people. As the story unfolds, we come across a hold-up, a black Maltese policeman who risks his life infiltrating the terrorist group, a beleaguered Maltese chemist whose life is made unbearable by his workmates, a dramatic rescue at sea and a Maltese trafficker who, on his way home from ferrying asylum seekers to the European mainland, has a habit of ringing his wife to know what she is cooking.

In a thriller which is primarily concerned with the hatred and brutality of terrorism, Richard Attard succeeds in adding the human element. One of the terrorists misses his girlfriend in England and though warned several times, he still listens to forbidden music. We detect a vulnerability in the female forensic scientist. Though highly intelligent and competent, her love story is one with which we can sympathise. We can also feel for Salvu il-Majnas, the Maltese chemist, for though his lack of hygiene and his terrible social gaffes push people away, we understand that the constant bullying in his workplace is a psychological form of terrorism, which will surely align him to the dark side waiting to recruit him and eventually bring him grief.

In Difrejn il-Falkun, Attard skilfully brings together the disparate scenarios - the seemingly random attack on the family in Libya, the holdup in Malta, the asylum seekers' journey, a chance meeting in a psychiatric hospital, and a Maltese newspaper in a Libyan hospital - to create a thriller which is fast moving and very readable.



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