As the players scramble over a landscape altered by the events of 9/11, converging in Madrid and later Morocco, determining the fate of a young spy who will offer any information in exchange for security, a long, sad history comes to fruition. During the infamous reign of Hassan II in Morocco (1961-1991), when student dissidents are either slaughtered or disappeared by a brutal leader, a woman gives birth in a Moroccan prison only to have her son removed to an orphanage that absorbs the newborn infants of political prisoners.
Manar Yassini gives life to her child, then he is torn away from her arms, Manar incarcerated in the coffin-like cells engineered to condemn such prisoners to a living death. Years later, the boy, Jamal, is swept up in a raid in Afghanistan after 9/11 and taken for questioning to Bagram Air Force Base. Ironically, it is not Jamal but two other men captured with him who are of particular interest to the agency, the consequences of that raid reverberating years later from Virginia to Hawaii to Morocco.
Too young to keep, Jamal is induced live in Madrid and report to his handlers any information he can pick up on the streets. Desperate to please these hard men, Jamal carelessly speaks a name, thinking only to retain his security but instead sparking a reaction that makes him a target.
Recalled to help locate Jamal, the reservist Arabic specialist who interrogated ďThe Prince of Bagram Prison,Ē Katherine Caldwell, hopes to intervene on Jamalís behalf. Struggling with complicated emotions from the events of 9/11, Katís memories are reawakened by this task, forced once more into the uncomfortable orbit of former associates. Tracked by a menace of which she remains unaware, Kat applies herself to finding Jamal, unwittingly ratcheting up the danger for herself and the frightened boy.
Various forces converge on Jamal. Sensing a turn of events, the boy flees Madrid, returning home to the desperate poverty of his former life at a Moroccan orphanage, a place as ominous as the prison where his mother clung to life in a grave-like cell.
Jamalís world is about experience, offering information, lies or truth instinctively. In Morocco, life is cheap, various agencies moving stealthily through layers of deception constructed to cover clandestine activities, his pursuers by turns charming and deadly. It is here that Kat will begin to make peace with her life choices, Jamal will flee the terrors of the past in search of safety, and a heartbroken woman will ache with the loss of her son. In this beautiful, brutal landscape, time is implacable, humanity writ small at the heart of the world.