In Ainsworth’s debut thriller, pediatric surgeon Wesley Morgan falls apart when his love, Caroline Pruitt, becomes one of the victims of the 9/11 attacks.
The doctor, once devoted to helping children, turns apathetic and is suspended for assaulting a Middle Eastern resident whom Wesley believes is supporting the terrorists. After that, Wesley goes into seclusion, training with weights, working with a Krav Maga instructor and learning Arabic, among other things. More than a year later, the now dark-skinned and bearded Wesley, as Barif Ali, gets chummy with a small group of Pakistanis and boards a freighter to Pakistan. Meanwhile, a National Geospatial Agency analyst tracks the same ship, suspected of transporting nuclear materials for al-Qaida, and U.S. agencies wonder about the mysterious Arab who, based on satellite images, has hopped off the freighter. The author doesn’t reveal Wesley’s true objective until the book’s nearly over. Suspense emanates from not knowing if Wesley will survive; Caroline’s father, Jon, calls in a favor and gets Special Agent Paul Cotsworth to search for the missing doctor, while Cmdr. Elaine Jericho of the National Geospatial Agency hunts for Ali—each unaware of the other and unknowingly looking for the same man. Ainsworth doesn’t make Wesley’s vengeance easily attainable. His ordeal is dark, grim and at times appalling, as distrust from people he encounters sometimes leads to torture. The protagonist is mostly sympathetic. But his self-obsessed nature will lose some readers’ compassion: He leaves behind his “tiny patients” at the hospital with seemingly no remorse; and in Karachi, Pakistan, Wesley, in order to maintain his cover, does nothing to help a screaming woman who’ll likely be beaten to death. But Wesley’s dedication to his cause remains a constant, complemented by Elaine’s determination to solve the enigma that is Ali/Wesley.
An affecting story of one man’s war.