When an American missionary working as a CIA agent is murdered in Mussoorie, a hill station in the Himalayas near India's border with Tibet, American and Indian intelligence suspect China is behind the killing.
That suspicion is heightened by the murder of two Indian border guards in this otherwise sleepy retreat, where Col. Imtiaz Afridi, "a legend and an enigma" in India's Research and Analysis Wing, monitors affairs from the army's supersophisticated but ill-reputed Himalayan Research Institute. Though confined to a wheelchair following a climbing accident on Mount Rataban, the 68-year-old Afridi, a retired army officer, whizzes around in a private helicopter. The novel boasts an expansive cast of characters including Anna Tagore, a brilliant and impetuous linguistic specialist who is working with Afridi; Noya, an Israeli mystic and language student whose lover, Renzin, is Afridi's son; and Karan, an Indian undercover agent who has spent relatively little time in his native country. We learn that the killings are part of a conspiracy tied to Afridi's past. Terrorists may be involved; the Dalai Lama may not be safe. Alter, a missionary's son who was born and raised in India and lives in Mussoorie, employs the colorful setting like a character, reveling in its heights and shadows as well as its dark history and legend. He writes in a contained, understated style, without much in the way of complexity, but he's a confident plotter who knows how to keep things zipping along and dial up tension.
Best known for his nonfiction (Becoming a Mountain, 2015, etc.), Alter delivers an engaging international thriller.