First-time novelist Keller weaves the tale of a lawyer working for a company that may have shady Middle Eastern contacts and a willingness to resort to murder.
Thomas Quinter, a lawyer with a small firm in 1987 Cleveland, is offered a job by David Bordman, an old friend who was his commanding officer in the Navy. Bordman, VP for arms manufacturer Nortex, enlists Quinter to scout real estate in Spain while the company moves some of its business there. But a ransacking of his office and attack on Jennifer, his secretary and former lover, is only the start of his troubles. Soon, he’s noticing people watching and following him, and Quinter suspects an Iraqi connection to Nortex. The novel begins as noir, but ultimately, it’s a story of espionage and romance that gives equal air time to exposing Nortex’s deadly secrets and Quinter and Jennifer’s romance. The protagonist is shrouded in mystery, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. Quinter’s time in Naval Intelligence may explain owning a gun but not why he has a silencer or an ability to pick locks. But enigma surrounding his background makes him a more curious character, particularly when he employs his skills as Jennifer and he evade scimitar-armed men. But not clarifying the “petty meanness” of Quinter’s divorce backfires when a flashback generates more sympathy for his ex-wife, who spies the lawyer getting cozy with his secretary. On occasion, descriptions of the scenery and sumptuous meals in Spain overtake progression of the plot—Quinter and Jennifer, knowing that the bad guys are in pursuit, stop at a cafe for a bite to eat. But overall, there’s a commendable fusion of a contemporary Middle Eastern conflict with old-school storytelling: Quinter twice uses the classic distraction of “Do you have a match?” and a kidnapped Jennifer seduces one of her captors. Not everything is explained, but the ending leaves just enough open to pave the way for a potential follow-up.
Readers should welcome this spy novel about a lawyer who prefers action over words, in both love and war.