Intricately crafted and clocklike in its controlled release of psychological and geopolitical tension.

TIMEBOMB

Embedded as a driver in the London home of Russian money launderer Josef Goldmann, undercover officer Jonathan Carrick’s assignment is yielding no useful information.

But when intel regarding the sale of a portable nuke makes Goldmann of interest to MI5, the stakes rise. Carrick foils an apparent assassination attempt and finds himself finagled into Goldmann’s trust just as they hook up with the broker, mafia heavy Reuven Weissberg whose lineage, nihilism and innate distrustfulness descend from a survivor of the Sobibor extermination camp. As a pawn in the hands of the brusque, unorthodox Christopher Lawson, 38 years an officer with the Secret Intelligence Service, Carrick walks the high wire sans safety net, enduring ruthless tests by mafia thugs. Meanwhile two disgruntled former Soviet soldiers excavate the weapon from its hiding place in a vegetable patch and set off in a decrepit car on a bizarre, often Quixotic odyssey, facing border crossings and inspections with the weapon hidden loosely under a tarp. The buyer, an Islamic militant operative known as “The Crow,” has lined up an expert to verify the device’s authenticity, a nuclear scientist let go from his position for family connection to the tribal areas in Pakistan. Themes of disenfranchisement breeding treachery and buried evils inevitably resurfacing permeate this latest, balletic thriller from Seymour (Walking Dead, 2008, etc.), whose sense of historical underpinnings, earned from years of covering terrorism as a journalist, elevate this tale to the heights of the genre, offering sprung steel suspense and sobering depictions of a world tilting on its nuclear fulcrum from Cold War deadlock to post 9-11 volatility. As the threat of nuclear terrorism looms, Carrick’s psychological state threatens collapse. Weissberg leads him to the site of one holocaust—will it become birthplace of another?  

Intricately crafted and clocklike in its controlled release of psychological and geopolitical tension.

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59020-699-7

Page Count: 432

Publisher: Overlook

Review Posted Online: Dec. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2012

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Economical and deliberately low-key, like all O’Nan’s work, but the complex moral issues it raises linger unsettlingly.

CITY OF SECRETS

The protean O’Nan (West of Sunset, 2015, etc.) assumes the mantle of Conrad and Greene in a probing, keening thriller set in Jerusalem just after World War II.

Brand, a Latvian Jew, lost his entire family in the Holocaust and is haunted by the passivity with which he watched fellow inmates tortured and killed in the camps. Determined not to be a victim again, he has come to Jerusalem and joined Haganah, one of several resistance groups determined to oust the British from Palestine and establish a Jewish state. Brand’s cover job is driving a taxi, and one of his tasks is to ferry fellow cell member Eva to assignations as a prostitute, through which she gathers information. In their off-hours the pair are lovers, which fills Brand with guilt for betraying his murdered wife. He’s not totally at ease, either, with his cell’s bombings and armed robberies, particularly when Haganah joins forces with the more violently radical Irgun “after calling them dissidents and terrorists and helping the British hunt them down.” The ironies echoing down to today’s Jerusalem are evident, although O’Nan stays meticulously within his 1945-6 framework. As soon as Brand starts taking Eva to the King David Hotel for repeated trysts, even readers unfamiliar with Middle Eastern history will sense that apocalyptic events are impending. When they arrive, in the novel’s grim climax, they make palpable the dilemma of O’Nan’s conflicted protagonist: “He wanted the revolution—like the world—to be innocent, when it had never been.” Though rigorously unsentimental, the text seethes with unresolved emotions, as when Brand celebrates a solitary Passover, missing Eva and pierced by memories of his dead parents and sister. He’s heartbreakingly lonely and appealingly ambivalent in a world where too many people are certain the righteousness of their cause justifies any action.

Economical and deliberately low-key, like all O’Nan’s work, but the complex moral issues it raises linger unsettlingly.

Pub Date: April 26, 2016

ISBN: 978-0-670-78596-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 18, 2016

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2016

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A must-read if you want a glimpse of the turmoil Americans faced in Afghanistan or if you just want a page-flipping good...

THE VALLEY

From a first-time novelist, a military thriller packed with action and mystery.

The story begins and ends with relative quiet, but the reader hungry for action need not worry. Lt. Black is stationed at the relatively safe Forward Operating Base Omaha in Afghanistan when he gets randomly assigned a 15-6 investigation, “the commander’s initial inquiry into possible wrongdoing.” Apparently, an Afghan village chief in Nuristan complained that an American soldier accidentally killed a goat. Black’s job is to fly to Combat Outpost Vega “up the Valley” and speak to everyone, gather facts about the apparently minor case and report back to headquarters. Once Black arrives, most of the soldiers refuse to talk to him, and the NCOs are openly hostile and disrespectful. They are rough people in a rough place. There are many valleys in Nuristan “where people died hard deaths,” but “there was only one Valley….It was the farthest, the hardest, and the worst.” Surrounded by the lurking Taliban and aggrieved villagers all close by, the American soldiers (and readers) are guaranteed all the excitement they can handle. Never what it had seemed in the first place, the situation deteriorates rapidly. The combat scenes are intense, believable and frightening. The troops need to call for help, but will they get through? “Communication was life,” the narrator notes as the Americans try to fight off an attack, and “there was no pay phone in the Valley.” “What the hell,” one character asks, “is the end of the world?” Clearly, it’s the Valley in Nuristan. There are a few points of confusion in this fast-paced drama, but whether that’s in the telling, the reading or the fog of war, they detract little. 

A must-read if you want a glimpse of the turmoil Americans faced in Afghanistan or if you just want a page-flipping good yarn.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-525-95486-6

Page Count: 416

Publisher: Dutton

Review Posted Online: Jan. 22, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2015

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