A post-9/11 novel focuses on the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism.
In Sandoval’s fiction debut, handsome young attorney Marc Bravo takes a phone call two days after the al-Qaida attacks of 9/11. Marc has just recently started work at the law firm of Lewis, Walsh & Bernstein in Beverly Hills, but the impact of seeing the chilling destruction on TV is still fresh in his mind (even prompting nightmares). And the caller, his old friend Dr. Sam Greenberg, has yet more traumatic news. Greenberg, the president of Doctors Without Borders, tells Marc that the lawyer’s parents, who do volunteer clinical work for the organization, have disappeared in Mexico. Tensions are high; kidnappings for ransom have skyrocketed in that country; and Greenberg is worried about rumors of al-Qaida sleeper operatives slipping over the U.S.-Mexico border. Marc decides to fly to Mexico immediately, accompanied by his brother (an archaeology doctoral candidate) and his best friend, all three graduates of the California National Guard and familiar with guerrilla warfare. They aren’t in Mexico long before Greenberg’s worst suspicions turn out to be correct: Marc’s parents have been kidnapped by a notorious, high-ranking Osama bin Laden confidant in Mexican exile, a sinister figure known as the Sheik, who has a penchant for beheading his victims and a particular hatred of Christians. Marc and his friends are quickly enmeshed in the complex world of counterterrorism, aided by Interpol agents, U.S. officials, and local law enforcement, with the narrative deftly shifting regularly to Marc’s parents as they endure their harrowing captivity. In somewhat stilted prose (“I hope you are okay after the September 11 terrorist attack on the New York World Trade Center,” Greenberg tells Marc), accompanied by copious amounts of raw exposition, Sandoval gradually unfolds a topical Tom Clancy-esque thriller involving a hostage drama, secret Islamic terrorist cells, and even a UFO. The characters are fairly flat, but the novel’s steadily increasing pace should help readers overlook the dramatic shortcomings.
A straightforward, if overly didactic, thriller about Islamic extremists.