The CIA assigns agent Jack Thompson, under the alias David Fulton, to Bali to search for Ali Selamat Bashari, leader of Jemaah Islamiyah, a group allied with al-Qaida. Less than a year before, Bashari had tried to kill Thompson and fellow agent Hamid, who were in Pakistan on 9/11. Thompson connects stolen ammonium nitrate fertilizer to the JI network; evidently, they’re planning to make bombs for an imminent strike. But the CIA and the Indonesian army can’t stop a devastating attack that results in more than 200 casualties. Thompson’s dogged pursuit of Bashari to Malaysia and Thailand is now not only to prevent further deaths but for vengeance as well. Vigil’s novel boasts top-notch action, from Thompson and Hamid’s ambush in Pakistan to an exhilarating scene between a baton-armed Bashari and a knife-wielding CIA asset named Madé. Thompson is a curious protagonist, starting with his perplexing identity: While his real name is provided only once, he’s David to most characters, including his love interest, Anna; in Pakistan and Afghanistan, he goes undercover as Khan; and he’s often called bulé (Indonesian for “white face”). Similarly, his first-person narration is often hijacked by third-person perspectives from multiple characters such as Bashari, Hamid and Thompson’s Chinese contact, Bao. However, the alternating points of view are never puzzling or redundant, and they can sometimes build suspense, as when, for example, readers know—before Thompson does—the specifics of Bashari’s plan, which involves pirates marauding on ships in Malaysia. Thompson represents a modern hero: He can’t operate as a lone wolf and simply go gunning for Bashari in foreign countries; instead, he needs to negotiate with local authorities and agencies, step back and let a group like the SEALs handle a raid, and even make deals with a few shady characters. Vigil rounds out the story with intense scenes, such as a questioning that ultimately leads to torture, and a trailing glossary that helps considerably.
Full-tilt action in a refreshingly atypical story structure that will satisfy genre fans.