In this thriller, a reporter attempts to exonerate an immigrant falsely accused of terrorism.
Shahnaz Delpak, an Iranian woman whose son attends school in Piskasanet County, complains at a meeting of the board of education that the system’s textbooks vilify her Muslim heritage while explicitly endorsing Christianity. School board member Beatrice Doggit counters by advocating textbooks that unabashedly celebrate Jesus Christ. Apropos of nothing, another pair of parents demands that teachers be armed as a precautionary measure against terrorist attacks and boisterously announces that they have guns with them at that very moment. Just as the argument reaches a fever pitch, a young man appears and trains his own gun on Shahnaz. In one of many heavy-handed moments in Keech’s (First World Problems, 2017) novel, the two armed parents flee in cowardly manner, while three unarmed teachers wrestle the gunman to the ground. A shot is fired in the chaos, and the errant bullet hits a teacher in the leg. The young attacker is high school senior Willard Scherd, who’s taken into custody—along with Shahnaz. The community’s response is terrified distortion; although Scherd is a white, Christian American, rumors circulate that the attack was by a Muslim extremist—so Shahnaz becomes a prime subject of investigation. Young reporter Anthony Mansfield conducts one investigation of his own to vindicate Shahnaz, and another into Beatrice’s opportunistic plan. Keech’s prose style is charmingly companionable, and he depicts the romantic entanglements of Anthony’s personal life, including an involvement with his boss’s daughter, with a tone of sweetness and humor. However, the overall plot is tediously didactic, diligently leading the reader to sententious lessons about prejudice and gun control. Indeed, the author’s overweening desire to push his viewpoints on readers results in characters that are straw-man caricatures, such as the father of the gunman: “I’ve had enough of you snowflake libtard pussies. We’re Americans. We have the right to carry guns. It’s in the damn Constitution.”
A sometimes-appealing tale of a small town, hampered by barely concealed proselytizing.