A smart, illuminating tale about important global concerns.

INHERITANCE OF CRISES AND DYSFUNCTION

In this debut political novel, a former attorney and government worker tackles a new position that focuses on repairing American diplomatic relations.

Following a career at the Treasury and State Departments as well as at a Washington, D.C., law firm, Staunton “Salt” Pepper retires. He moves back to his family farm in Virginia and settles into small-town life. But Stuart Bacon, the likely choice for secretary of state for the new 2021 administration, calls Salt back to Washington. He wants Salt to be a “troubleshooter and a diplomatic relations turnaround specialist.” Many apparently view America as “xenophobic, racist…and untrustworthy,” among other things. Salt will fly to various countries and consult with respective representatives in an effort to foster multilateralism—in contrast to the United States’ typical unilateral actions. His traveling companion is CIA agent Louise Roseaux, who’s essentially his bodyguard. There indeed may be danger involved since in places like London and Berlin, the two sometimes believe someone is tailing them. Meanwhile, Salt and diplomats discuss such issues as the “Iran nuclear deal.” He hopes to convince these countries that America is willing to mend relations even if, as he speculates, it takes years. Maiwurm’s novel features pithy, informed writing. The author smoothly addresses numerous topical subjects, from Covid-19 and the bleak economy to the Black Lives Matter movement. These are generally part of the characters’ political discourse, even among the locals in Salt’s hometown. Covid-19’s incorporation into the story is especially well done. Salt recently lost his wife, Meredith, a nurse, to the virus and witnesses its lingering effects (for example, empty middle seats on flights). Despite the appealing protagonist’s middle-of-the-road political beliefs, he maps out a clear plan for improving diplomatic relations. Though Salt’s continued mourning for Meredith is convincing, his deepening relationship with Louise has little impact on the characters or the narrative.

A smart, illuminating tale about important global concerns. (acknowledgements)

Pub Date: July 27, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-66320-468-4

Page Count: 188

Publisher: iUniverse

Review Posted Online: Oct. 20, 2020

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A poignant and lyrical novel that asks what is worth sacrificing for peace—and provides some answers.

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NORTHERN SPY

Berry delivers a taut and compassionate thriller as young mother Tessa is drawn into working as a double agent in the Irish Republican Army to protect her sister.

It's been years since the Good Friday Agreement was signed, but tensions in Northern Ireland remain at a constant simmer. Tessa moves through the simple motions of her life: taking care of her infant son, working at the BBC News Belfast bureau, spending time with her mother and sister. The physical isolation and beauty of her home village hint at the possibility of a world in which one doesn’t always have to be alert for terrorists; Tessa is old enough, however, to remember the Troubles, and she fears that the IRA will never truly surrender. Still, it comes as a shock at work one day when she sees a video of her sister participating in an IRA robbery. But even more shocking is the revelation that comes from Marian herself once she is able to reach out to Tessa: She's been a member of the IRA for seven years, drawn in by their talk about economic inequality, and has recently begun feeding information to MI5 in order to create space for peace talks. After a bomb she created for the IRA failed to blow up, though, she's under constant surveillance and can no longer meet with her British handler. And so Tessa joins her sister as a double agent: She's accepted by Marian’s crew and asked to do increasingly dangerous tasks for the IRA, which she then reports to her handler. Days of espionage are balanced by quiet moments with her son as Tessa comes to realize that putting herself in danger is justified, even necessary, if she wants him to grow up in a safer Ireland. Berry's use of short chapters, often divided into several smaller episodes, is particularly effective in reflecting Tessa's fragmented sense of loyalty and safety. This is not a book of action, though there is plenty, but instead a greater reflection on personal choice and consequence.

A poignant and lyrical novel that asks what is worth sacrificing for peace—and provides some answers.

Pub Date: April 6, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-73-522499-5

Page Count: 288

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2021

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It may be time for Silva's hero to retire from the field and let his protégés take over.

THE NEW GIRL

Gabriel Allon partners with a dubious ally in the Middle East.

When a 12-year-old is abducted from an exclusive private school in Geneva, Allon, head of Israeli intelligence, is among the first to know. The girl’s father is Khalid bin Mohammed, heir to the Saudi throne, and he wants Allon’s help. KBM was once feted as a reformer, ready to bring new industries and new freedoms to his country. When he makes his appeal to Allon, though, KBM is the prime suspect in the murder of a journalist. If KBM immediately makes you think of MBS, you are correct. Silva mentions Mohammad bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s real-life heir apparent, in a foreword. But anyone who recognizes KBM as a fictional echo of MBS might find this book to be more old news than fresh entertainment. In his last few novels, Silva has turned his attention to current world affairs, such as the rise of the new Russia and the threats of global terrorism. In novels like The Other Woman (2018) and House of Spies (2017), the author was inventive enough that these works felt compelling and original. And, in The Black Widow (2016), Silva wrote much of the story from the point of view of the French-born Israeli doctor Allon recruited for an undercover mission while also expanding the roles of a few familiar secondary characters. Allon is a wonderful creation. In the first several novels in this series, he posed as an art restorer while working for Israel’s intelligence service. He adopted a variety of personas and gave readers access to people and places few of us will ever see. Now that he’s a public figure who can no longer invent alter egos, his world is smaller and less fascinating. The pacing here is slow, and any sense of urgency is undercut by the matter of what’s at stake. Ultimately, this is a narrative about removing one horrible Saudi ruler in order to reinstate a less horrible Saudi ruler. This might be solid realpolitik, but it’s not terribly compelling fiction.

It may be time for Silva's hero to retire from the field and let his protégés take over.

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-06-283483-6

Page Count: 496

Publisher: Harper/HarperCollins

Review Posted Online: July 1, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2019

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