Inter-agency rivalries, Cuban-American politics and prisoners of the War on Terror combine to rattle—quite sharply—the life of an FBI agent in Guantánamo, Cuba.
Baltimore Sun reporter Fesperman (The Warlord’s Son, 2004, etc.) continues his intelligent novelist’s tour of places you’d be terrified to visit (war-ravaged Yugoslavia, the Paki-Afghan border), alighting this time in Guantánamo Bay (“Gitmo”), that American thorn in Fidel’s side, where the U.S. has been parking thousands of young men who may or may not be terrorists. Former Marine and current FBI agent Revere Falk is there because a stint in Yemen has polished his already good Arabic, making him an exceptionally valuable interrogator. His grilling of Adnan, a very young, very distressed Yemeni, is interrupted, however, when the body of an American sergeant washes up on the wrong side of the fence dividing Gitmo from Castro’s Cuba, and Falk is assigned to clear up the case. The soldier, a reservist from Michigan, was a banker who had been getting worried letters from home about some odd dealings with shadowy Cayman Island banks. Falk quickly finds himself crowded out of both the drowning investigation and the interrogation of Adnan when higher-ups, including Falk’s own mentor, arrive from several spooky Washington departments. And, to compound the problems, Falk, after years of silence, has been contacted by the Cubans who blackmailed him into spying for them years ago, when he was a young Marine looking for a taste of Latin love. The intense interest in the Yemeni prisoner and the drowned soldier are related, but the relationship is largely invisible to an increasingly baffled Falk, who realizes that both he and the attractive Army captain he has been dating are both subjects of equally malign interest on the part of island spies.
The sharply drawn scenery, fascinating setting and a couple of exceptionally interesting central characters compensate for a plot that threatens occasionally to drown in detail.