Click here to read reviewer Sam Sattler's take on The Amateur Spy.
After years of aid work in service to countries decimated by famine, disease and war, Freeman Lockhart and his younger Bosnian wife, Mila, have retreated to the Aegean island of Karos, hoping to find a respite from the turbulent years that have rendered Freeman incapable of enduring his career.
Healing from the inevitable scars of what they have witnessed in their work, Freeman and Mila are settling in to their first night in their new house when three men intrude into their fragile sanctuary, threatening Lockhart with revealing past mistakes if he will not agree to a mission on their behalf. Hoping to shield Mila from a terrible truth and accomplish his task quickly, Freeman acquiesces.
Lockhart is to return to Amman, Jordan, to offer his services to a former coworker, Omar al-Baroody, who is currently raising private funding for a hospital to be built near the Bakaa Refugee Camp. Omar’s contacts are in question, and Freeman is tasked with reigniting the old friendship to learn any details about financial backers of this new endeavor in a post-9/11 year of terrorist threats.
While Lockhart travels to meet with Omar, an Arab-American physician in Washington, DC, plans a small revenge following the death of his beloved daughter. Treated crassly since 9/11, Abbas Rahim and his wife, Aliyah, have found their marriage on shaky ground. When a suspicious Aliyah discovers her husband’s intentions, she devises a plan of her own - maybe co-conspirator, maybe traitor to her husband’s cause.
In Jordan, Freeman is welcomed by his old friend and soon begins sleuthing the files whenever the office is empty. Mila has gone to stay with her aunt in Athens until Freeman finishes his mission. Meeting with constant frustration, Lockhart is able to uncover few details of Omar’s contacts, increasingly questioning the identity of the interlopers for whom he is working.
Meanwhile, Jordan seethes with disparate factions, a mélange of interested parties masquerading as successful businessmen, fringe-dwellers, and opportunists who inhabit such areas of political unrest.
As the ever more complicated plot unfolds, Lockhart resorts to tapping former contacts from his years in the field, hoping their information will help him escape from a morass of conflicting agendas, secret government agencies and do-gooders impossible to differentiate from the malcontents. In the end, great courage is required of a man once close to personal freedom, enslaved once more by the ambiguities of the Middle East.