Two separate terrorist factions threaten nuclear attacks in Lipshutz’s debut political thriller.
Israeli Col. Zvi ben-Aryeh is unmoved by a proposed peace settlement between Israel and the Arab League. He and other men who’ve lost loved ones to terrorist attacks plot to launch a missile at the Kaaba, a Muslim shrine in the holy city of Mecca in Saudi Arabia. Meanwhile, an Islamic cell in Jerusalem has its own scheme to aim the missile at Tel Aviv. Both alliances, by sheer happenstance, are looking to attack on the first day of Ramadan. Lipshutz’s solid thriller deftly pits political groups against one another, but he keeps the story in check with a relatable hero, a Jewish Columbia University student named David. He gets caught up in the action while visiting his cousin, Capt. Sid Goldman, in Jerusalem; his mother sent him there due to her wariness over his relationship with Jasmine, an Arab girl. Jasmine soon winds up in Jerusalem, as well, as her sickly father needs a complicated surgery that can’t be handled in his native Lebanon. The thriller puts millions of lives at stake, as retaliation from a nuclear strike would almost certainly result in another world war, but Lipshutz also makes sure to deliver plenty of hazards for his individual leads: David takes a bus ride to Netanya that ends in a hail of bullets, and Jasmine, desperate to retrieve a supply of her father’s rare blood type, is tricked into transporting explosives. The tension is ramped even higher by the fact that the U.S. president and his Cabinet are shockingly ineffective. However, the story is sometimes a bit too obvious with its foreshadowing, as when David’s grandfather takes him to a shooting range, and it gives a few villains unsubtle names, such as Abdul Jihad. Also, although Lipshutz is good at providing context for foreign expressions, he tends to dive right into new locations, so readers may want to brush up on their Middle Eastern geography.
A fine thriller with all the right ingredients: political unrest, characters in jeopardy and the constant threat of a gigantic explosion.