Lawrence Osborne is a writer I’ve been aware of for some time now but never read. As you might expect from a world renowned traveler Osborne’s novel The Forgiven is full of sharp, vivid observations that put you immediately inside Africa as seen through foreign eyes. The story focuses on a lavish party thrown by a wealthy gay couple in a remote area of Morocco that provides the backdrop for a very relevant modern story that examines Western excess and privilege, Muslim resentment and long-lasting prejudices on both sides. What makes the book so successful is the quality of writing; the setting feels recreated from firsthand experience and the characters are well-drawn, feeling closer to real people than stand-ins for an idea. The book shifts through the interior worlds of all the key characters without sacrificing any authenticity and manages to bring into focus several disparate points of view. The story doesn’t lack for action but it’s the deft character studies that give it weight. The Forgiven is a master class in attention to detail, insight and narrative restraint – drawing conclusions from the cycle of events but always pulling back at just the right moment so as to avoid the heavy-handed clichés that a less-skilled writer might have been tempted to include.