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
Design and typography: A-
Marketing copy: B+