x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Deadly Waters: meet Somalia's pirates

Book Review Jay Bahadur goes to lawless Puntland in a book that is one part travelogue through a dangerous country and one part anthropological exploration of piracy's root causes.

Let no one doubt the courage of Jay Bahadur, who hopped on a plane for Somalia shortly after graduating from a Canadian university a couple of years ago. The budding young journalist was in search of a big story and he found one in Puntland, the lawless territory that is the epicentre of the piracy epidemic.

The problem is that Bahadur does not tell the story very well. Piracy is a legitimate threat to world trade and the almost-daily hijackings, rescues and high-speed pursuits that are endemic to the problem would seem to provide built-in drama, but Bahadur cannot sustain any momentum.

Deadly Waters aims to be one part travelogue through a dangerous country and one part anthropological exploration of piracy's root causes, but neither element works. There are bits to admire: he gets reasonably close to one of the pirate leaders, a khat-addled character named Boyah, and his descriptions of the region will be useful to future historians. But while Bahadur did get "inside the hidden world of Somalia's pirates", he does not provide a vivid picture of what is going on there.