Carr (An Accidental American, 2007, etc.) shows a straight-shooting soldier coming up against decades of treachery in America’s intelligence machinery.
This provocative tale of military intelligence gone haywire is marred only by rapid and bewildering shifts of time and territory from the 1970s to the early 2000s, Afghanistan and Spain to Vietnam and Morocco. At the murky center is Jamal, snatched at birth from an unwed Moroccan who had incurred the displeasure of King Hassan’s regime. Fleeing the squalid orphanage where he was dumped, teenaged Jamal managed to make it across the straits to Spain and then into the pipeline leading to Afghanistan in the middle of the war on the Taliban. He was of interest to coalition interrogators there because of the older Iranians with whom he arrived; one of those men died in custody, the other escaped. Jamal’s interrogator was Army specialist Katherine “Kat” Caldwell, a fluent Arabic speaker thanks to her training at the Defense Language Institute. At the time she interrogated Jamal, Kat was involved with one of the Brits who had a hand in the death of Jamal’s Iranian companion. These connections come into play when, years later, Kat is summoned from her civilian job at a military school, ordered back on duty and sent to Spain to find Jamal, who has eluded the agents now on his trail. Why those agents killed Kat’s old boyfriend and why they want to kill Jamal when they find him are secrets only gradually revealed to Kat and the reader as she follows her gut instincts to locate the boy. Neither Jamal nor Kat knows anything about the devils haunting “Mr. Harry,” as Jamal calls the retired spook he went to for help when he realized he was in danger, but Harry Comfort knows that they are up against bad guys entrenched at the heart of the American intelligence machinery, men who want all of them dead.
A smart, timely thriller weakened only by the abrupt narrative jumps among the decades covered.