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The Midnight Secret of the Mullahs
An anonymous tip by an Iranian prostitute about a Pakistani general prompts a CIA officer to team up with her and go to Iran to prevent the Iranian mullahs from nuking Israel. Nika, an Iranian trafficked woman who is tortured by a sadistic Pakistani general, fabricates a story that he sold Iran a nuclear bomb to motivate Americans to kill him. She does not realize, however, that her fabricated story is actually true. George Morgan, a CIA operations officer, rescues Nika and goes to Iran, under the cover of a nuclear scientist, to retrieve the bomb. He finds out that some Iranian mullahs are plotting to explode the bomb in Israel, causing a global war which they believe will expedite the appearance of the Shia Hidden Imam. Nika and George must not only foil this plot, but also fight a powerful mullah who seeks to force Nika back into his prostitution ring. They ultimately flee with the bomb and hide in Tehran, but a suicidal mullah catches up with them and threatens to detonate the bomb if George does not allow him to use it against Israel. George refuses to comply and the mullah explodes the bomb.
Plot/Idea: 8 out of 10
Originality: 7 out of 10
Prose: 8 out of 10
Character/Execution: 7 out of 10
Overall: 7.50 out of 10


Plot/Idea: The novel reads like a film script, heavy on action, intrigue, and drama. There are certain plot points that lack nuance, and though George—depicted as something of a super spy—lends the book plenty of energy, there are some moments in which his skills, foresight, and invincibility feel over-the-top. 

Prose: The prose is clear and engaging, making this novel a real page turner. Some readers may wish for a trigger warning given the book's sensitive themes of sexual trafficking and violence against women and girls.

Originality: While there are elements of this storyline that echo other spy dramas set in the Middle East, the cast's diversity is welcoming and refreshing.

Character/Execution: Both Nika and George are complex, dynamic characters, though there are dissonant moments in their development: George sometimes struggles to view Nika as an equal, and although Nika's bravery and ingenuity ultimately save the day, along the way her character is primarily associated with her past as a sexually trafficked, abused woman. Several minor characters reflect stereotypes that, while serving a clear purpose within the novel, ultimately feel almost interchangeable with each other. 

Blurb: The Midnight Secret of the Mullahs is an action-packed spy thriller in which an unlikely but dynamic duo team up to keep a nuclear bomb safe from enemy hands. 

Date Submitted: May 25, 2023

This tense and thoughtful thriller, Rohani’s first novel, plunges readers into the secret world of Iran’s nuclear program and the sex lives of mullahs, as an American CIA operative, now past his prime, goes undercover as a Canadian nuclear scientist willing to help build a bomb in a facility just north of Tehran. That operative, Sohrab, is the son of an Iranian woman and one of the agency’s few trained agents fluent in Farsi. A sneaky tip from an Iranian sex worker warning about the efforts of a Pakistani general to furnish Iran with a nuke kicks off the case, which will find Sohrab, posing as George, eventually partnered with her in Iran, as she—Nika— becomes a “temporary wife” bestowed upon George as a gift for his services.

The plot turns on deception, double-crosses, surprise firefights, and the proclivities of the powerful, as Sohrab, in the guise of George, promises Ayatollah Hamshahri a bomb that can devastate an Israeli city, in exchange for cash and access to sex. Glimpses of what Nika and other women endure as temporary wives are harrowing yet handled with an outraged sensitivity. Setting the novel apart from the thriller pack is that author and hero alike possess deep understanding of both American and Iranian culture and practices, making Sohrab’s infiltration not just plausible but illuminating.

Rohani’s dialogue is strong and mostly convincing, and the story’s most engaging moments occur in colloquies, as when Nika reveals her history to Sharob, or when they discuss her options as a “temporary wife” summoned to her master: “I must either submit to him or kill him, and I’m not going to submit to him anymore.” Scenes of action are clear but presented without the flashy brutality of many thrillers. Readers who favor smart thrillers that take the rest of the world seriously—and are frank about the realities of sex work and sex slavery—will find this compelling.

Takeaway: Smart thriller of a CIA agent from two worlds infiltrating Iran’s nuclear program.

Comparable Titles: Ausma Zehanat Khan’s Among the Ruins, Frank Gardner’s Ultimatum.

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