A terrorist sleeper agent has fallen in love with his adoptive country, but the arrival of other jihadists threatens to place him back on a dangerous path.
Two Pakistani jihadists are on a collision course in America’s Heartland. One is Yussef, a graduate student and the lone member of a three-year-old terrorist cell in Rockledge, Mo. The second is Jamal, who, accompanied by three other Islamic extremists, has only recently left Pakistan, hoping to infiltrate the United States through Mexico and then meet up with Yussef in order to launch an attack. Yussef’s time in America has changed him however, and the friendships he has made there, along with the affections of his modest, beautiful classmate Rachael, have turned him against the mission—an inopportune problem with the determined Jamal on his way. Elliott’s debut novel is surprisingly complex, never oversimplifying the shades of gray in which it operates; there is no demonizing Islam or holding America up as a guiltless victim—just people making good and bad decisions, either because of tragedies in their pasts or the personalities of those around them. The muted tension of Jamal’s inevitable arrival is magnified by the novel’s ability to endear itself through Yussef’s lighthearted moments, ultimately making the threat of losing them all the more heartbreaking. Character interaction is sometimes weak; inner monologue is where the story is most comfortable, one-on-one conversations between characters (particularly Yussef and Rachael) are strong, but anything more and the book’s dialogue becomes jumbled and cliché. A thriller at its core, a subplot involving the captain of the ship on which Jamal and his fellow jihadists were smuggled across the ocean supplies a little action until the novel’s final, violent crescendo.
Unpolished but intricate and fun, even as the plot turns tragic.