Talwar’s thought-provoking mystery is set against the backdrop of war-torn Afghanistan.
Soon after Indian journalist Anzan arrives at Kabul’s Aram guesthouse, one of his fellow boarders, an American ostensibly working as a sports advisor to the Ministry of Youth, is killed by an explosion in his room. Anzan then uses his investigative skills to narrow down an international cast of suspects, including members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, and learns exactly who this American is and why someone might want to kill him. Talwar is a superb storyteller who manages to conjure both the flavor of an expatriate community and the day-to-day life of Afghanis. He peoples his tale with a range of characters and shows the country’s array of spices, foods, clothing and expressions. Perhaps most impressive is the way the author twists the noir genre into a glorious multinational reflection of itself. Though a skillful and seasoned journalist, Anzan’s narration is politely cynical rather than hardball. His repartee is delivered, not in gritty wisecracks, but in an urbane but stilted English that doesn't exactly sound like Mickey Spillane: “I’ve done difficult assignments in dangerous places before, but when I thought of Afghanistan, I felt the secretions of fear line my stomach.” As with any good mystery, the plot thickens at every turn. While Anzan travels about Afghanistan speaking to various people, contradictory clues and hints arise. Initial suspects are discarded as new ones appear, until a sickening realization begins to dawn on him. In the end, his discoveries force him to make a decision that will define what type of man he is. More than murder set in a distant locale, the novel examines classic themes of love, loss, identity, friendship and the overarching effects of politics on the lives of ordinary people. This is self-publishing at its best, lending voice to a perspective that might otherwise be lost to more clichéd views of foreign culture.
An intelligent thriller, perfect for readers who wish to immerse themselves in an exotic, dangerous land.