In TV writer Guggenheim's debut novel, a young, newly hired CIA litigator stumbles across evidence that a ruthless shadow agency, without the knowledge of the president, is orchestrating a war between Iran and Israel.
No one in Washington is terribly upset when Iran's supreme leader dies from a bad case of swine flu, Iran having taken over the role of the world's No. 1 threat in its march toward nuclear readiness. But when Alex Garnett discovers that an organization inside the CIA was responsible for the death via a weaponized virus, his dream job at Langley quickly turns into an odd-man-out nightmare. People with loose connections to the conspiracy start dropping dead, but Alex can't find anyone who will believe they were killed. The only person he can trust is a geeky hacker whose life he puts at almost as much risk as his own. There are implausible plot twists and miracle escapes, but the biggest problem with this formulaic thriller is its use of a potential Middle East meltdown as a backdrop to Alex's attempts to prove his manhood and climb out from under the influence of his father, a powerful former aide to two presidents. Perhaps if Alex were less callow and had more dimensions, he would draw more of a rooting interest. As it is, readers spend much of their time trying to fight off the feeling that he's getting what he deserves.
After an opening of nasty promise, Guggenheim’s debut becomes a predictable slog, with a protagonist we have no desire to see again.