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SANDSTORM by Alan L. Lee



Pub Date: June 4th, 2013
ISBN: 978-0-7653-3494-7
Publisher: Forge

No slouch with bloodletting, Lee’s debut action-adventure novel scatters bodies across Maryland, Italy, Russia and Israel before a quarter of the narrative has expired.

CIA station chief Erica Janway was linked to a sexual harassment scandal and brought to Langley. Assigned as a desk jockey until things are resolved, she's shot through the heart by a man in a wet suit. Simultaneously, her protégé, Nora Mossa, is attacked in Rome. Nora knows there’s a conspiracy afoot, and she goes underground and flees to the Virgin Islands. There, she pleads for help from her former lover and ex-CIA agent, Alex Kove. Doubtless Lee hopes to hang a thriller series on Kove, his intellectual, multilingual superagent recruited to the Company after a sterling NFL career. While cinematic jump-cuts common to action thrillers and blockbuster films move the story, the dialogue is neither literate nor layered. That said, Lee can render a good line, "The pair fell in unison, as if synchronized dying were a sporting event." Dwelling little on settings other than the mention of landmarks, Lee sends the narrative flying through D.C., Brussels, Kuwait, Crete, Georgia and into Iran. However, Lee’s here-and-there-and-everywhere settings and double handfuls of characters sometimes overwhelm action with information. Grab a cheat sheet to track the plethora of players: Alex’s cohort, Duncan Anderson, enters the narrative with no history or biography other than, "One black man reporting for duty;" then there’s the head of the National Clandestine Service; an ambitious and corrupt U.S. senator; his son, an incompetent CIA agent; a German magnate whose sideline is clandestine arms; and an amoral billionaire intent on altering world history. The plot hinges on nukes for Iran, with U.S. and Israeli schemers conspiring to trick the ayatollahs for geopolitical gain or personal profit. Kove’s nemesis from his agency days, Dmitri Nevsky, a former Russian secret agent, also shows up.

Conventional action-adventure fare.