Click here to read reviewer Luan Gaines' take on The Amateur Spy.
Dan Fesperman’s latest thriller, The Amateur Spy, taps into one of the modern-day world’s greatest fears: that a lone terrorist working just below the radar might manage to decapitate a Western government by destroying its entire leadership in one fell swoop with a well-placed bomb. Fesperman takes that fear one notch higher by reminding us that there are those out there who would jump at the chance to provide a disgruntled American with the means to pull off just such a scheme.
As the book opens, Freeman Lockhart and his young Bosnian wife, Mila, are looking forward to a leisurely life on the Greek island of Karos. Lockhart, veteran of a long career as a United Nations aid worker, and his young wife, also an ex-aid worker, have decided to retire to the island for the simple life that they crave, a life that as it turns out is doomed to last all of one day.
On the couple’s first night on the island, their new home is invaded by three men who kidnap and hold Freeman long enough to blackmail him into returning to Jordan to spy on one of his former colleagues on their behalf. Omar al-Baroody, an old friend of Freeman’s and head of a new charity that is raising money to build a hospital in Jordan for Palestinian refugees, is suspected of being more than he seems. Freeman’s handlers want him to prove that their suspicions about the man are correct.
Freeman Lockhart, in way over his head but hoping to prove his old friend innocent of any involvement in terrorism, immerses himself in the details of the charity’s fundraising efforts in an effort to identify the origins and eventual destinations of the monies being handled. His efforts take him from Jordan to Israel and Greece, but his investigation, rather than narrowing down the possibilities, leaves him suspicious of almost everyone he encounters, including the Palestinian-American woman he meets in Jordan. The book’s tension level steadily rises as Lockhart fumbles his way through the world of espionage, reaching its peak when he begins to suspect that he has stumbled onto the makings of a terrorist attack meant for American soil.
Dan Fesperman thrillers are a notch above what the genre often offers. His are largely character-driven novels, in which he creates fully-fleshed individuals whose motivations and personalities drive the action. He presents a finely balanced worldview that deals in grays rather than in blacks and whites, allowing his readers to see the war on terror through the eyes of both sides. Fesperman’s personal experiences as a war correspondent in places like Bosnia and the Middle East allow him to paint a vivid picture of life in Jordan, a country that few of us have seen quite like this before.
The plot of The Amateur Spy may be complicated, but Fesperman’s skills and clear writing style make it an easy one to follow. Those reading Dan Fesperman for the first time are sure to add him to their list of authors to watch after reading this one. The rest of us know that he is getting better and better.