Six years after ace newspaper reporter Charlie Davis and his British wife, Julie, barely escaped a Tiananmen-like massacre in Uzbekistan, she is abducted near their Los Angeles home. His efforts to find her lead him back to the roiling former Soviet state, where he must also thwart a terrorist plot.
Charlie's marriage hasn't been the same since he gave up the international beat—understandably, since he got shot in Uzbekistan and his wife nearly lost her baby during an uprising there—to do menial work for the Los Angeles Times. After her disappearance, he discovers emails of Julie's that indicate she has been having an affair—possibly with her old Cambridge classmate Alisher Byko, once a potential force for good in Central Asia with his inherited wealth and charisma, and now a force for oppression. She may also be involved in some kind of secret operation, possibly with MI6. In due course, Charlie is abducted by the same Black Ops agents who carried off Julie, makes a daring escape and, with the help of an old, trusted friend, goes all-out to undermine Byko. This debut is fast-paced, well-plotted and scenic. But we're on familiar turf, storywise, even with the torture scenes. The characters are rather thinly drawn, and Steinberg could have done more to make the events of the past resonate unsettlingly through the present. Charlie and Julie survive their harrowing first visit to Uzbekistan too neatly, and the book never overcomes that.
An above-average, if familiar international thriller, the first from the creator of TV's Without a Trace.