A love affair turns into a deadly link to terrorism in Krieg’s slim debut novel.
Alan Grendigh, a soldier in the British Army, returns home after being injured fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. He meets the pretty Susie, whose troubled past follows her and affects all who associate with her. Almost a year after last seeing her, Alan receives a mysterious postcard. He’s sure it’s a message from Susie, but he doesn’t know what it means or why she sent it. He’s not the only one who wants to find out. The British government also wants more information about Susie Carter. Anyone connected with her, including Grendigh, is in danger since she knows too much. While Krieg’s tale of horrific war crimes and intertwining lives compels, details told in military precision sometimes thwart momentum. Each character has a war story, but a collective dearth of physical descriptions and human quirks somewhat inhibits the characters’ effect on the reader. Even the dependable Grendigh—on the run for his life and the truth—stays out of focus. The compelling villains—a psychopathic killer and a dangerous mob boss—make only cameo appearances. The stakes are high in this wartime drama, and readers get a view from the trenches of the worst war crimes, from Iraq and Afghanistan in the 2000s to the death camps in World War II–Germany. Mistakes, however, sometimes sabotage the action. For example, when Grendigh finds out a friend is in danger, he rushes to help, but awkward, incorrect wording distracts: “I couldn’t help the fact that people had noticed the fact that I was sweating and that I clearly had been out of breathe.”
Unwieldy back stories and grammatical errors hobble an ambitious story of love and war.