Reviews of The Chunnel Syndrome

The Chunnel Syndrome
Bob McElwain,
eBook Reviews Weekly
Baron Léon Montagne-Jonson owns the second largest ferry fleet in England. David Marcke, once his right hand man, was married to Nicky, his daughter, for a time. And he has been friends for years with Anthony, the Baron's son. Divorced now, David has built a quiet lifestyle of his own.

As the story opens, the Baron has turned the business over to his son, Anthony. And things aren't going well. There have been many efforts to build a tunnel under the English Channel. Current talk has led to action. Unlike many previous efforts, this one seems likely to succeed. Since this would mean the demise of the ferry fleets, long the basic connection between England and the mainland, the Baron steps back into the scene to make sure it doesn't happen.

With questions he can't answer, the Baron turns once again to David, as he has done so often in the past. Reluctantly, David joins in. He quickly finds himself in the middle of a whirlpool of mishaps, mysteries, and conspiracies, being sucked ever deeper. A vortex of violence from which there seems no escape.

The genre is a tough call. There's plenty of intrigue and mystery. But it can also be labeled a contemporary historical novel. It paints a grand picture of the economic and political struggles preceding the building of the Chunnel which now links England with the Continent.

Mendes knows his subject. While fiction, the events he reports resonate with authenticity. These kinds of things did happen, if not in quite the manner described. History buffs will absolutely love this book.

Throughout, all is well done. The plot will keep you guessing. And it's guaranteed to surprise you in the end. As with many plot-driven tales, characterization is secondary. However, each is well drawn. Mendes uses lots of flashbacks. I had moments of confusion as to whether I was reading events occurring now or in the past.

If you're looking for a fast paced quality read set against a background of power and corruption, this book is just for you. It's a winner. I enjoyed it immensely.

Bob McElwain, eBook Reviews Weekly


Professional translations made by
Donna De Vries
Gazet van Antwerpen
Chunnel will cause heads to fall
Bob Mendes Lights Fire Under Shipping Companies and High Finance

Bob Mendes talks about his third book, The Chunnel Syndrome. "Faction" is the word he uses to define his style. A blend of facts and fiction. The Channel Tunnel is presently under construction, the last of dozens of plans - made since the time of Napoleon - to connect Great Britain with La Douce France. To illustrate a possible operation against the Chunnel carried out by shipping companies and British high finance, Mendes harks back to the tragedy of the Herald of Free Enterprise.
The author, a successful accountant whose first name is really David, is, incidentally, convinced that after the completion of the Channel Tunnel there will be other permanent underwater channel connections. With his rational, accountancy-educated brain, he foresees a revolution in the transportation of both freight and passengers in Europe.
Ship owners are bound to react negatively to such a prospect. It's up to them to sabotage operations so thoroughly that the builders relinquish their plans. They got that far in the 1970s.
The problem seemed to be over then, but Chunnel fever was still lurking. When the discussion of a channel connection came up again in recent years, and the plans clearly escaped being shelved, big arguments were brought to the attention of the public. Certain shipping companies even showed films on board their ferries illustrating the dangers of a tunnel under the Channel.
Bob Mendes situates The Chunnel Syndrome against this background. He got the idea while reading an article about the Chunnel in the Financial Times.

...the book's protagonist, David Marcke, and his ex, Monique (that's right, old fires are burning again), want to penetrate the secrets [of the shipping companies], but find themselves in a full-blown war between invisible world powers. In his former profession, Mendes regularly came into contact with extremely wealthy people. His recollections are not altogether favorable. "There are international companies," he lets slip, "in which the members of the board of directors control more money than the national budgets of Belgium and the Netherlands together. They live by the principle 'Time is Money' to the tenth power. Strange things happen. Managers and their direct subordinates cannot allow themselves any setbacks. They cut some tremendous capers.
Het Laatste Nieuws
(Gangsters zonder pistool)
a) Gangsters Without Guns
b) Bob Mendes tackles economic crime in book on Herald catastrophe
Het Nieuwsblad
a) Thriller Surfaces from Herald Shipwreck
b) 'Mention crime and the man in the street thinks of a lethal gunshot. In real life, crime is far more complicated. Economic gangsterism and white-collar crime take place at such a high level that the ordinary citizen has no idea of what goes on. That's my firm opinion. As a writer and as an accountant' The name of the man calmly stating his case is Bob Mendes. His latest thriller, The Chunnel Syndrome, will be out next month. We talked to him about crime and money, power and friendship, writing and happiness.
c) Foto: 'Three requirements for a good novel: love, hate (gee, I didn't realize that) and suspense'
d) 'Crime is never isolated'
Accountant Bob Mendes writes clever contemporary thrillers with plots based on actual events. In 1988 'A Day of Shame' was published, a novel using the Heizel Stadium riot as its point of departure.
'The Chunnel Syndrome' zeros in on the wreck of the Herald of Free Enterprise and the economic results of the Chunnel project on the present ferryboat service between England and the Continent.
Mendes turns concrete, journalistic data into suspense-filled fiction. With his straightforward style, he can easily hold his own among American writers producing works of the same genre. In addition, this thriller offers its readers the opportunity to interpret individual news items within a broader economic frame-work.
De Standaard der Letteren
Emotions, Suspense and Facts

Bob Mendes, born and bred in Antwerp despite his somewhat strange-sounding name, looks first to the 'hot lines' of international news for inspiration. In a surprising interpretation, The Chunnel Syndrome (356 p.; ISBN 90 223 1163 5) exposes a network of primarily financial interests in which the Herald of Free Enterprise was part of the strategy that resulted, apparently unscrupulously, in the holdings that financed the construction of the Eurotunnel. In a spectacular story...Mendes offers the reader a look behind the scenes of these organizations.
De Rode Vaan
"The Herald Disaster? That's Capitalism Personified."

a) In his new crime novel, "The Chunnel Syndrome," Bob Mendes weaves an imaginary story around the "Herald of Free Enterprise" disaster. He points an accusing finger at "modern robber barons" whose goal is to be "disgustingly rich." They escape every audit and inspection administered by governments that no longer can or will call them on the carpet. The driving force behind the whole situation is the construction of the Channel Tunnel. A discussion with the author points out the social and political consequences of this unbridled industrial power. The "Chunnel" also fits perfectly into such ambitious new plans.

...Bob Mendes...succeeds in getting the reader emotionally involved in a... suspense-filled thriller that doubles as a gripping social indictment. The statement by the ship owner's son, who wants to be "disgustingly rich," serves as leitmotif in a novel aimed primarily at white-collar criminality. Point of departure is the construction of the Channel Tunnel, or "Chunnel." At the moment the shares of the tunnel corporation are listed on the stock market, a ferryboat capsizes. A young accountant who's making an audit of the company unravels an industrial conspiracy destined to make the financial backers of the Chunnel "disgustingly rich."
The second part of the book, focused on the actual disaster, bears the title "Those Who Get Off Scot-Free." Any who are still in doubt as to the identity of these invulnerable souls, after the socioeconomic account interwoven throughout the first part of the book, receive a quotation from Burke as motto: "The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse." It's not the perch, but the pike, that can rise above the law.

b) Foto Bob Mendes: social commitment in "faction" novel

c) "There's no political responsibility here. The politician always gets off scot free. That's what makes it so disturbing."
Holland Randstad
When I'd finished The Chunnel Syndrome by Bob Mendes, I mentally tipped my hat to the author of this crime novel! ...Bob Mendes's quality as an author of thrillers is even better [than his past work] in The Chunnel Syndrome (1989): it's a piece of fluent writing, cleverly thought out and fitted together, complex and even somewhat complicated, but all the same extremely suspenseful. This crime novel is clearly the result of very thorough, patient research.
...Bob Mendes raises the level of tension by writing short subchapters in which the narrative perspective is continually changing, by supplying the growing mountain of information in small doses while simultaneously posing new questions, by incorporating subtle hints, and by laying down false scents. The climax comes unexpectedly. In addition, the past created by the author for his main protagonist - David Marcke - adds a more human aspect to the character: his relationship with the ship owner's family and his marriage to the magnate's daughter are disclosed in flashbacks.
...The Chunnel Syndrome is...a well structured and exciting book. It is, as mentioned, rather complex, but because it's not overdone there is no loss of clarity and it's a pleasant read from beginning to end. With his third novel, Bob Mendes has earned a permanent place within the crime fiction genre in this country. The Chunnel Syndrome borders on perfection.
Leeuwarder Courant
The Chunnel Syndrome: Terrifyingly good!

...[Mendes] doesn't believe irresponsible behavior or mistakes made by the crew led to the ferryboat disaster, but criminal intent on the part of the ship owners. In the first part of the book he presents the reader with the facts; in the second part he impressively sketches the catastrophic results. ...What makes this book so terrifyingly the slowly rising, gripping question in the fictitious part of the book: just imagine that all of this actually happened behind the scenes! In any event, it presents a new picture of the Herald disaster.
...Mendes has an exceptional gift for creating a blend of fiction and reality that combines fluently and is extremely credible. This is one of the things that makes 'The Chunnel Syndrome' a successful crime novel.
Onze Tijd
(The Fraud Hunters)
In April the faction thriller "The Fraud Hunters" by Bob Mendes will be published. He is the originator of this genre in Flanders.

In Flanders, Bob Mendes is the father of the faction-thriller. This genre originated in the United States shortly after World War II. It's made up of documented thrillers that take a great deal of research. Mendes also incorporates economic and social problems into his suspense-filled plots.
...Bob Mendes almost always bases his stories on true-life events that made a disturbing impact on public opinion. The Heizel drama ("A Day of Shame") and the Herald of Free Enterprise disaster ("The Chunnel Syndrome") are a couple of examples. "Every subject I write about is something that's touched me deeply or made me angry. It's fantastic to develop a story like that. And my personal commitment has to be obvious."
Mendes denounces the fact that political leaders who make mistakes get away with it, while the average citizen has to take the blame for his blunders. This is his leitmotif.
How corrupt is the tax inspector? Bob Mendes, accountant and author, takes this subject and weaves a convincing thriller in which facts and fiction go hand in hand.

Frustrations are taken out on [the unprotected small businessman]. Even so, this is not a black-and-white condemnation of ex-tax consultant Mendes's adversaries. The author would rather aim his arrows at political appointees. He links the highest civil servants to politicians who don't hesitate to deploy the BBI to discredit their opponents. Fiction, of course, but it sounds suspiciously plausible. Add to that the professionally master-minded field of tension and a dash of romance, and Mendes is assured of a multitude of readers.
De Standaard der Letteren
Politics and Crime
Big media events always give rise to discussion: the man in the street has his own ideas, emerging from a kind of straightforward philosophy; specialized columnists analyze the facts in magazines and newspapers and speculate on what's lurking behind the scenes. Bob Mendes makes literature out of it: facts and fiction are allied in the faction genre.
An exciting formula, that also produces exciting literature: the reader reads, as it were, from the stand-point of a committed vision of the facts which have been placed, via the author's imagination, in a new and often surprising light. Mendes makes absolutely no claim to be revealing "the" truth or to be dishing up ready-made solutions. His novels, in which there is no lack of social criticism and in which the psychological drawing of the characters captures the reader's attention as much as the facts, are categorized - partly because of the high degree of suspense created - as crime literature, but at the same time they transcend the classic rules of that genre.
The experience gained by Mendes during his many years as an accountant and tax consultant forms the basis of his new novel The Fraud Hunters. The plot - with more than coincidental ramifications within our national political scene - is woven around the "fiscal high technology" that appears to be inextricably linked to a circuit of easy money and the ingeniously created methods to have it laundered.
...It's clear that in writing The Fraud Hunters Mendes was not aiming at any one figure as much he was trying to expose an entire system, namely the one in which power and money go together perfectly and, on the other hand, the political desire to combat the situation is nonexistent.
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