Brutal tribal injustice motivates a Western-educated Pakistani to compete with Osama bin Laden as a terror theorist, targeting America’s space shuttle.
An incendiary string of U.S. policy failures fuels this frightening, tightly written thriller by Stabenow (A Deeper Sleep, 2007, etc.). Akil, the Muslim villain at the story’s heart, is no Islamic fundamentalist. He is, rather, a smallish man with a very big grudge against the American enablers of Pakistan’s corrupt government. Akil firmly believes that the refusal of Western-backed authorities to rein in tribal leaders was responsible for the revenge killing of his beloved sister. That’s sufficient motivation for him to enlist with the forces of bin Laden’s great rival Musab al-Zarqawi, proving himself so loyal and effective as a terrorist that he becomes Zarqawi’s No. 2 man. When the Americans kill his mentor, Akil elects to operate independently, taking as his nom de guerre Isa, Arabic for Jesus. Using skills acquired in years as an employee of Western banks, he keeps Zarqawi’s fortune out of bin Laden’s hands, using it to build a cadre he will wield personally in his quest to humiliate America. The space shuttle that is his target counts among its crew members Kenai Munro, a sexy and smart Alaskan aviator whose parents will watch the launch from a Coast Guard cutter captained by Kenai’s equally capable lover, Cal Schuyler. Akil is able to elude both the Americans and bin Laden’s lieutenants, who are under orders to render him ineffective. When Akil starts to make errors, dedicated CIA officer Patrick Chisum begins to pick up his scent, and the Coast Guard is very much on the job.
Taut and alarming.