A novel about what it’s like to be a professional terrorist-interrogator.
George Young never meant to become a freelance inquisitor. But after his plans for the family apple orchard founder, this Gulf War veteran, eager for a fresh start, is recruited by the U.S. government as a civilian interrogator (years earlier he idly claimed facility with Arabic). Soon he finds himself sweating enemy combatants at a top-secret facility, Omega, on a tiny dot in a tropical archipelago. George lives with his baffled wife and two children on a nearby island and travels to Omega by launch—the commuting idyll of the accidental torturer. The novel begins as a prisoner, #4141, drops dead while George and his partner, a brutal pro, are softening him up. How to dispose of a corpse that doesn’t officially exist? Holdefer delivers smart meditations early on about the nature of terror and about the unlikely but plausible string of decisions and accidents that landed George here. Neither pasteboard villain nor plaster saint, George is thoughtful and likable, and Holdefer makes his self-interrogations convincing without letting them become ponderous. Unfortunately, the family’s extended trip stateside for Christmas—with its attendant misadventures, marital, financial and otherwise—occupies more than half the novel. By the time we return to Omega for the powerful finale, #4141’s corpse has been on ice, both literally and figuratively, for too long.
A little diffuse, but stylish, fiercely funny and frightening.