A devastating terrorist bombing in Paris sparks a joint French-American investigation with conflicting methods and agendas in this debut thriller.
McGuire instantly sets an indelibly grisly and chaotic scene: the aftermath of two savage explosions—several minutes apart—of unprecedented magnitude. Enter Christine Dupont, who works for the French version of the FBI and CIA combined. But the CIA wants in on the investigation. “We have an interest here too,” she is told. “We can stay in the background, but we would like to be closely involved.” As the investigation progresses, the author shifts perspectives among the story’s good and bad actors. Among the former is 29-year-old Doyle O’Gara, who has just started a job in the Washington office of a security firm and is “excited to be joining the fight, no matter how small or peripheral his role might turn out to be.” Among the latter is Mohammed Jamal, who is portrayed with more depth than the usual villain in such cases. (“He had not intended there to be so many bodies.”) Terrorist plots and the race against time to foil possible imminent attacks are at this point reliable tropes for action fans, but McGuire heightens suspense by juggling several timelines. Chapters are subtitled “Six months before the attack,” “First day of the investigation,” “One month after the Paris attack,” and so on. O’Gara’s character gets muddied as the story progresses. He is dismissed at one point as “a marginal character, a techie.” But at another point, he himself reflects how his company duties “had been growing, rather rapidly it had seemed to him at the time.” Things aren’t made any clearer by this sentence: “He had not foreseen that he would play such a central role, albeit a minor one, in the investigation that swiftly followed.” Readers may either be disappointed or impressed by how the author subverts expectations for Jack Ryan–like heroics. Dupont, though, has the right stuff to carry a franchise of espionage adventures.
Admirably ambitious and with a terrorist plot that isn’t the same old, same old.