In this novel, a Canadian whose job entails preventing terrorists from recruiting new followers confronts his worst nightmare.
Erik Petersson works for the High-Risk Traveler Task Force, a Canadian agency charged with a single mission: “identify and stop high-risk travelers from leaving the country.” High risk largely means those who, for diverse reasons astutely plumbed by Luft (The Battle Within, 2017), are vulnerable to the allure of ideological extremism. In a morbid twist of fate, Erik receives a bewildering call from his young daughter, Arielle, who reveals she’s in Germany and is about to hop a flight to Turkey with Syria as her final destination. She explains that she’s recently converted to Islam and is about to embark on her first hijrah, a devoted Muslim’s duty to make a pilgrimage to the Caliphate. Erik is understandably horrified and immediately uses his position to track her whereabouts. But after he defies warnings to recuse himself from the case, he is suspended indefinitely. The author deftly chronicles Erik’s indefatigable efforts to rescue his daughter from a world whose dangers he knows intimately as well as Arielle’s terrifying experience in Syria. Erik is eventually forced to take matters into his own hands and is able to trace his daughter’s recruitment, from an extremist professor in Canada, Dr. Omar Sahraoui, to a powerful terrorist in Raqqa, Abu Noor al Kanadi. Luft artfully coalesces two disparate literary genres: a counterintelligence thriller and an emotional drama. Through Arielle, he delicately examines the perilous path to radicalization, in her case through the twin traumas of her mother’s suicide and a sexual assault on her college campus: “What she needed wasn’t more protection, or more freedom, but more respect. More community. And she’d found it.” The author also furnishes an eye-opening exploration of the “convenient ideals” of most terrorist organizations, and the dark links between them and the global drug trade. His novel is as edifying as it is engrossing, a rare combination of literary skill and intellectual rigor.
A captivating look at the grim cosmos of international terrorism ensconced in a moving family drama.