A secret government organization sends a terminally-ill demolitions expert to assassinate a dictator.
John Covello is in trouble. His house is about to be repossessed, he has saddled his family with millions of dollars of debt and his demolitions business, once one of the largest in the nation, has crumbled. To make matters worse, he learns that he has an aggressive pancreatic cancer that will kill him in a few short months. In short, he’s just the type of man the U.S. government needs for a super-secret program that recruits terminally-ill citizens to conduct suicide missions. Driven to desperation–insane fundamentalist Pakistani dictator Ali Khan has just detonated a nuclear bomb over India in an attempt to take control of Kashmir–the government seeks out Covello for the job: imploding the government headquarters of Pakistan while Khan and his generals meet to discuss strategy. Covello’s family will be well-compensated, but he must disappear without breathing a word of his illness or mission to anyone. The novel’s premise is implausible, but the author compensates with a brisk narrative that sends an undercover Covello into the heart of fundamentalist Pakistan, where his contact, the brilliant and gorgeous doctor Salena Zamal, is engaged against her will to Khan. Covello and Zamal have only a few days to accomplish the task–the Indian prime minister is preparing for an all-out nuclear retaliation–and the fate of the world hangs in the balance. The story isn’t exactly groundbreaking, but DeStefano’s evocation of the Pakistani landscape and skillful manipulation of the sexual, ethnic and ideological tension between Covello and Zamal serve as welcome counterpoints to the conventional plot twists.
A well-paced, enjoyable thriller.