In this debut thriller, an insurgent conspiring against American forces in Iraq resorts to subterfuge to survive.
A Filipino man known as Angel lives in Baghdad, where he’s part of an insurgency against the American occupation following 9/11. His superiors give him a suicidal mission to smuggle an explosive device into the heavily fortified Green Zone. Angel doesn’t want to die, but he can’t refuse his orders. Instead, he decides to plant the bomb without making it operational. He knows that the explosive will be discovered, which will satisfy his superiors that he did as he was told, and he doubts that they’ll blame him too much for technical incompetence. But after he plants the bomb, one of his cohorts accidentally fires a gun, drawing the attention of American soldiers. He and two members of his team take refuge in a building that’s soon surrounded by troops; it turns out that the building is controlled by another insurgent group, led by Ali Qasem, a brutal killer—and that they have American hostages. Author Costanzi ingeniously chronicles Angel’s craftiness he tries to convince Qasem that he’s his superior; Angel manages to pass off his friends as captured infidels, and he’s prepared to present himself to American forces as a hostage when they inevitably come powering through. Along the way, the author intelligently portrays the moral chaos of war, not just from Angel’s perspective, but also from that of the American military, and of the Iraqi soldiers that it trains. For instance, Chief Ra’ad Farouq, a high-ranking Iraqi military leader, is charged with rescuing the hostages on orders from American officers whom he loathes. However, although the prose reaches for poetical heights, its style is consistently overwrought: “Peril’s tangy taste watered his mouth. The aluminum his fingers were locked onto caressed his palms. These sensations shot bone tightening charges through heightened biology.”
An astute anatomy of war-torn Iraq that’s undermined by overblown prose.