In Fleming’s thriller, set in the not-too-distant future and the final in the author’s Kamas Trilogy (Star Chamber Brotherhood, 2013, etc.), a man sent to a labor camp plots to help a family whom he believes he’s betrayed.
Department of State Security officer Warren Linder’s undercover operation in West Beirut targeting insurgent Philip Eaton is botched. The DSS, needing Linder to take the blame for inciting the Lebanese government, accuses him of collaborating with Eaton, who fled the States with pilfered bank money years ago during Civil War II. Linder is given a life sentence at a Yukon labor camp. He soon plans an escape, hoping to make it up to those affected by the failed DSS assignment —namely Eaton’s daughter, Patricia, with whom he’s enamored. Fleming’s previous books depict war-torn countries and civil unrest, and his latest follows the same pattern; though there are no gunfights, scenes like a five-day trek in the relentless cold with many prisoners who don’t survive are fraught with tension. So many characters have veiled, treacherous agendas—Bracken, the camp’s deputy commandant, wants Linder to spy on fellow detainees, and Linder’s untrustworthy DSS friend, Denniston, tries to coerce a confession—that even scenes of dialogue hum with the anticipation that a bomb could explode any minute. Fleming’s vision of a near future is a chilling dystopian world, particularly the U.S. (Linder’s homeland), burdened with a megalomaniacal president-for-life whom Linder equates with, among others, Caligula. Despite the story’s setting and the brutalities that Linder endures, the novel is far from dreary. Instead, the protagonist embodies hope: He clearly has affection for Patricia, who’s essentially his reason for becoming a fugitive, and he’s had only two short interactions with her, both 20 years ago when they were teens. Flashbacks, including Denniston trying to convince CIA agent Linder to sign up for the DSS, are nice breathers from the perils of the harsh weather and labor camp—though the best one, not surprisingly, is when 13-year-old Linder meets Patricia at a dance class.
Pure energy in print form, whether the characters are being pursued or simply talking; Fleming has proven himself a craftsman.