In Rising’s debut thriller, a Texas college professor in 1977 tries to prove the innocence of her young student, a suspected terrorist imprisoned in Israel.
Political science professor Caroline Cavanaugh is shocked when she hears that Israeli authorities have detained 22-year-old Lydia Fleming, one of her students at the University of Texas. When FBI agents question Caroline, as well as Lydia’s grandmother Norma Rodriguez, it’s clear that the feds believe that their suspect is associated with the Palestine Liberation Organization. Over the last 10 months, Caroline had grown close to Lydia, who’d traveled the world as a flight attendant. The young woman staunchly supported and sympathized with Palestine, as she’d seen some of its people, who were sickly and living in poverty. Caroline is baffled about why Lydia was in Israel, though, as the young woman had been planning to attend American University in Beirut. After Caroline travels overseas to be a character witness, along with Lydia’s mom, Barbara Dilcher, she learns about several other things that Lydia kept to herself, including a possible affair with a male professor back home. But Caroline is certain that Lydia is no terrorist, particularly because the dubious evidence against her includes multiple written confessions in Hebrew, which Lydia neither speaks nor writes. While they’re in Israel, someone breaks into Caroline and Barbara’s hotel room while they’re out, and later, they notice someone following them. Rising’s unhurried narrative thoroughly establishes Caroline and Lydia’s intricate relationship in flashbacks, several months before the student’s arrest. Caroline is shown to be professional, but she senses that she and Lydia may have something deeper than just a teacher-student bond; elsewhere, the story hints that the professor also has romantic feelings for her former college-debate partner, Maggie. Caroline’s devotion to bringing Lydia home feels believable, and it’s devastating when the professor begins to doubt her student’s account. The author weaves some conspiracy elements into the plot, but at such a meticulous pace that the twists, while effective, seem less surprising than inevitable—and frighteningly unavoidable.
A nerve-racking, vibrantly dramatic tale with an empathetic protagonist.