In Kimelman’s (Flame Road, 2017, etc.) latest series thriller, Sydney Rye and her canine sidekick must protect each other in war-torn Iraq as they aid Kurdish female freedom fighters in their fight against Islamic State group terrorists.
Sydney was the inspiration for Joyful Justice, a worldwide vigilante network. Born Joy Humbolt, she became famous for allegedly killing her brother’s infamous murderer. In reality, someone else killed him, and Sydney just took the rap. Now Declan Doyle of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is threatening to reveal her secret and send her to prison for various crimes, but his superior, Mary Leventhal, has another idea. She wants Sydney to help the FKP, a group of Kurdish female fighters, exterminate members of the Islamic State group who abuse and kidnap women. Specifically, Mary believes that Sydney can inspire more women to join the FKP’s revolution. Once Sydney’s in Iraq, though, bombings separate her and her ever present dog, Blue, from the rest of the team. She later joins up with an FKP fighter named Zerzan Khani, aka “The Tigress,” and the small group braves the Iraqi forest and occasional terrorist attacks as they set about rescuing a captured ally. But even if Sydney succeeds in recruiting women to the rebel cause, she may still be at risk of going to prison—or worse. Kimelman’s characters repeatedly cite an IS belief that men won’t go to heaven if women kill them, and this book, unlike some other thrillers, never treats the notion of battle-ready women as a novelty. Taut action sequences describe Sydney and Zerzan as proficient killers with warriors’ mindsets: “I didn’t have enough bullets to make many mistakes,” Sydney muses. The book also explores some potent and sometimes-gloomy notions, such as Sydney’s assertion that violence is the only way to combat men’s violent ways. That said, the idea of Sydney being an inspiration to large groups of women isn’t entirely convincing. Other characters’ stories, in fact, have more impact; for example, Sydney tells of Tanya, a sex slave who fought back and incited a revolution with a viral video of her retribution. The book’s superb, ambiguous ending, however, is sure to stick with readers.
A solid tale that effectively showcases its strong women characters.