In Borelli’s (At Last Reconciled, 2013, etc.) latest thriller, a New York lawyer gets caught up in a U.S. operation to neutralize weapons-grade material hidden in Iran.
When agents from the CIA and National Security Agency show up at his law office, Niccoló Cérvantés de’Conti assumes the worst. After all, they could very well know about his occasional role as vigilante, though he was acquitted for the murder of the three men who raped and killed his daughter. It turns out that President Obama needs the services of Nick’s clientele who do business in Iran, which is violating the nuclear agreement by concealing bomb material. The U.S. government believes Nick can use his contacts to help the military transport it out of Iran. The attorney, who doesn’t believe moving that much material is feasible, suggests an alternate plan: destroy it in situ. The president agrees, and Nick sets about recruiting Iranians—more specifically, his new bride and fellow lawyer, Laleh Sassani, who in turn recruits her affluent father, Behnam Sassani. President Obama and agents convince Nick to supervise the seven physicists on their covert mission in Iran. Nick and the “eggheads” undergo physical training and test a small nuclear bomb to ensure it will detonate. He also makes certain his loved ones are financially secure, in case he doesn’t return. Readers may have trouble cozying up to the recurring protagonist. Nick definitely has positive attributes—an unmistakable fondness for his Harlem hometown and not flaunting his wealth. But the married man ogles and fantasizes about women while constantly clashing with female authorities, like drill instructor Sgt. Harriet Lane. Likewise, he readily admits he doesn’t love Laleh, marrying her simply for her cooperation in the Iran plan. Descriptions are sometimes threadbare (Nick’s “odd looking cellular telephone, like nothing normal humans carry around”) but never confusing. The final act is bolstered by a threat of global war. It’s riveting stuff, though the finale includes a jarring personnel shift.
Not the most likable protagonist but watching him confront danger may garner interest in his previous tales.