The cultural dynamic of Dubai provides the most compelling element in this international thriller.
A former foreign correspondent for the Baltimore Sun, award-winning crime novelist Fesperman (The Arms Maker of Berlin, 2009, etc.) finds intrigue in yet another exotic locale, though the one-dimensional characters offer no match for the ambiguities of the setting, a city steeped in tradition yet growing at an astounding pace that results in cultural whiplash. It is an “eerie insta-city…(where) everything between the desert and the deep blue sea was for sale, and all of it was either going fast or being paved over to make way for more.” Observes protagonist Sam Keller, a young auditor for a huge pharmaceutical company, “This was how the Emerald City must have looked after the Wizard flew off in his balloon, taking all the rules with him.” Sam’s work includes a lot of travel, though he is surprised when his superiors ask him to meet with an older, more reckless colleague in Dubai for what appears to be babysitting detail. Sam accompanies the colleague to a brothel, where a murder generates suspicion that Sam might be implicated. But the reader recognizes early on that characters in this novel are either good or bad and that Sam is one of the good guys, though it can be a challenge for him to distinguish the other good guys from the bad guys. He finds himself caught between two rival police officers and has to decide which one is more likely to help him and which is more interested in framing him. His home corporation that initially promised to help protect him inexplicably appears to be turning on him. He receives support from an obligatory love interest, who is plainly good, though her father fears that her increasingly Westernized values are bad. As the plot thickens, Sam finds himself “sought by the police, your employers, your embassy, and the criminal elite of two nations.”
A guy with “the soul of a bohemian caged by the mind of an auditor” finds more excitement on the job than he’d ever anticipated.