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Jeff Foran
A Mistaken Hostage
J.F. Foran, author
Returning to San Francisco after successfully brokering a large project with the President of Egypt, advisor Brooks Davidson starts a relationship with attractive psychologist Sarah Pierce. Little do they know that their comfortable lives will be shattered by a series of catastrophic events brought about by the impulsive actions of an unscrupulous Egyptian Cabinet Minister, determined to reclaim his waning power at all costs.
Ex-CIA agent Brooks Davidson must free his psychologist girlfriend when she's kidnapped by Egyptian extremists in this taut political thriller, set in the United States and Middle East during the Mubarak regime. Sarah Pierce is being held to force Brooks to stop his economic development work with Mubarak, because he has humiliated government minister Omar Sayed. Brooks must call on his spycraft training to delay the ransom while he plots to save Sarah. But the kidnappers face their own problems as time drags on, and Sarah gradually takes responsibility to rescue herself.

Foran (Angels on a Tombstone)—an international business consultant—expertly sets the action in the context of Egyptian dependence on U.S. aid and the extremists' disgust with this policy, in a deeply fractured society. Brooks's close ties with Mubarak are symbolic of Middle Eastern unhappiness with the Western world, a theme that enriches the fast-moving plot. Foran also explores the cultural foundations of Egyptian society, including the role of women. These underpinnings lend an unusual level of nuance to this actioner. Although that engaging background delays the start of the action, once it gets going, it's nonstop.

The characters are equally well-developed, lending a deep emotional heft to the story. Brooks uses his wits, rather than violence, to get what he wants, and his anguish at being the reason for the kidnapping comes across as very real. Sarah gradually realizes Brooks has not been honest with her, and must use her skills as a psychologist to preserve her sanity. The antagonists are equally well-limned: Omar comes across as weak and thin-skinned, but also patriotic. His great mistake is working with his wily cousin Fathi, a senior intelligence official, who has no beliefs beyond self-preservation. The collapse of their relationship is truly moving and plays out like a classic tragedy. The all-too-human characters keep the nimble thriller moving quickly to a surprising—and cathartic—conclusion.

Takeaway: Fans of political thrillers will revel in the breathtaking plot, engaging characters, and vivid Middle East setting.

Great for fans of: Martin Cruz Smith, Len Deighton

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A-
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A-
Marketing copy: B+