A CIA–trained family man must escape the clutches of Middle Eastern extremists in this sequel to Spy Mates (2013).
In Adelphi, Maryland, Bret and Chu-lin Lee are attending their daughter’s high school graduation. Rachel is the third of the Lees’ four children to leave the nest (their youngest being teenager Caleb), and the couple decide to take a trip before Bret’s teaching post at the University of Maryland resumes in September. Chu-lin convinces her husband to visit China to see her parents and 98-year-old grandmother. When they reach a stopover at the Chongqing Jiangbei International Airport en route to Beijing, Bret leaves the plane to buy some reading material and use the restroom. In the restroom, three Chinese men accost and kidnap Bret, hoping to sell a potentially valuable American. While Chu-lin eventually enlists the help of Julien Jasper Jones—Bret’s former boss with a “quasi-governmental” spy ring—a Pakistani named Aasim buys the college professor for $20,000. Bret travels via camel and car through Karachi and into Syria, where he changes hands once again, this time to the self-styled New Islamic Caliphate, or the Islamic State. In Raqqah, he’s tossed into a warehouse prison that’s “thick with acrid waste smells and sweaty unwashed body odors” as well as the occasional screams of prisoners. Luckily, the protagonist maintains his rugged wit despite beatings and the threat of a videotaped beheading. The narrative thread focusing on Bret proceeds in brisk tandem with Jones’ efforts to rescue him using numerous contacts and the latest satellite technology. Van Soye (The Renewables, 2014, etc.) illustrates the harsh realities of battling terror when readers are reminded that “the payment of ransom would encourage terrorists all over the world to kidnap more Americans.” Nevertheless, the plot delivers all-too-fortuitous alcoholic Muslims and beautiful freedom fighters, who help Bret escape danger and position himself as a key figure in halting the Syrian civil war. Still, this is a breezy read, regardless of its grim subject matter, and enjoyable whether or not a reader has read the previous installment.
An optimistic adventure set against the ugliness of modern warfare in Syria.