In Roberts’ debut thriller, an Indonesian police officer aids Interpol in taking down a powerful cartel that’s manufacturing drugs in a number of countries, including her own.
Sarah Michelle Dharmawan of the Indonesian National Police is in Manchester, England, getting briefed on her latest assignment. She’s a well-trained and well-respected officer who was part of an anti-terrorist unit in Jakarta, although she’s required to keep mum about the membership. Now, in her latest posting, she’s the liaison between the INP and the Interpol Incident Response Team, which is focusing its efforts on the Irish Cartel, which has its origins in Northern Ireland. Although the Good Friday Agreement sought to decommission paramilitary groups in the late 1990s, some criminals continued to profit from existing drug operations. The Irish Cartel, which concentrates on producing and distributing MDMA, aka ecstasy, has drug factories in the United Kingdom, the Republic of Ireland, and, according to recent intel, Indonesia. Sarah’s initial task is to help locate the Indonesian facility, but soon she’s working with team member Michael Adrian of the British Army. His plan is to bait Irish Cartel members into an ambush. However, the cartel retaliates by targeting Michael and Sarah for abduction. It’s essentially an assassination order, as noted cartel member Niall Schroeder delights in disemboweling captive women and beating men to death. The Interpol Incident Response Team, meanwhile, identifies and, with the assistance of the military, subsequently raids the cartel’s drug factories. But tensions rise when the villains kidnap someone, as there’s little time before Niall’s interrogation tactics will turn lethal.
Roberts’ novel showcases a skilled female protagonist whose accomplishments are impressive. Although the author’s repeated descriptions of Sarah’s physical allure and muscular abdominals are excessive, she’s also shown to thrive in a male-dominated industry, and the author tackles this milieu with finesse and guile. Still, her Interpol boss, Christopher Broussard is worried about putting her out in the field, as the Interpol IRT has lost a member, Karen Wilson, to the atrocious Niall. Indeed, this cartel member is the source of much of the story’s violence; none of it is overtly graphic, although it does succeed at clarifying the dangerous circumstances of Sarah’s and Michael’s work. The striking action scenes are rife with guns, knives, and explosions. Perhaps the most remarkable scene in the novel relies on stealth, as a balaclava-clad Sarah creeps into a bad guy’s house, slowly clearing rooms while eluding security cameras at the same time. The romance between Sarah and Michael happens rather quickly, but it does provide some relief from the bloody confrontations and adds complexity to the sometimes-withdrawn characters. Nevertheless, a sequence in which the couple enjoys a vacation (of sorts) in Herefordshire is too long and slows the momentum. For the most part, though, Roberts manages to instill a sense of dread, as it takes quite some time for Sarah to find the Indonesian facility; also, someone is feeding information to the Irish Cartel.
A sensational protagonist highlights a tale that’s full of intrigue.