In Khalifa’s debut novel, a former FBI agent returns from a self-imposed exile in order to tackle a hostage negotiation.Alexander Blackwell left the Bureau behind to run a boat-cruise business in Anguilla, but he’s thrust back into his previous life when Frank Carter, a former colleague, urgently retrieves him to assist in a hostage situation. The perpetrator, who goes by the alias “Seth Mendoza,” has requested Blackwell by name; he’s holding the top executives at security company Exertify hostage, including CEO Mark Price, the brother of a U.S. senator. He’s also threatening to bomb several day care centers if Blackwell doesn’t appear. The ex–FBI operative returns to Manhattan, where he’s briefed on the situation. Mendoza falsely claims to be an Arab prince and says that he’s responsible for the recent kidnapping of the senator’s daughter, Julia Price. In exchange for Julia and the hostages, he demands the release of two terrorists, who he claims are innocent, from an Egyptian prison. Blackwell is puzzled by Mendoza, and he works to unearth the criminal’s true identity and the reason why he asked to talk to him. After some unforeseeable plot twists, the shocking truth unfolds, and the events connect to a worldwide government conspiracy. The story features chapters set in various times and locations, including England, Germany, Egypt, and Australia. Khalifa develops his protagonist well as Blackwell struggles with returning to his former career; pines for his children, Milo and Calista, whom he longs to see; and deals with a disastrous event in his past. The author also shows how Blackwell’s stress is amplified in the company of former colleagues, especially Special Agent Monica Vlasic, whom he blames for the end of his career. The writing style is often poetic: “Prospecting with a fine-tooth comb within his soul, Blackwell stumbled across the tiniest speck of strength and determination and latched on with all his might.” Overall, the author paints a picture of how complicated human nature can be, often jarring readers with revelations that certain characters aren’t who they initially appear to be. An intense, action-packed read for fans of political thrillers.