A medical thriller details a surgeon’s humanitarian mission in eastern Turkey, a region ravaged by sectarian strife and terrorism.
A catastrophic earthquake strikes eastern Turkey, killing thousands and maiming more. Dr. Nicklaus “Nick” Hart, an orthopedic surgeon in Memphis, takes a leave of absence from work to travel there and lend his expert assistance, joined by Ali Hassan, a young surgeon-in-training under his tutelage. Ali is originally from the city of Van, the central site of the disaster. When Nick arrives, he’s confronted by grim conditions: inadequate supplies, disfigured children, and a queue of amputations to perform. Ali is determined to track down his aging parents amid the chaos, and Nick reaches out to old friends Maggie and Buck for assistance, characters reprised from Browne’s (Maya Hope, 2017) first book in his Nicklaus Hart series. Meanwhile, two agents of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service, Antasha Katrina and Vladimir, are sent to Turkey to find the biblical Tree of Life, reputed to promise extraordinary longevity, if not immortality, a mission personally assigned by President Vladimir Putin. In addition, an Islamic State terrorist band plans to exploit the turmoil of the calamity, infiltrating the area by posing as humanitarian aid workers while sneaking in explosives. Repeating a central theme of the first installment of the series, Nick wrestles with doubt regarding his life’s purpose, especially his Christian faith, a struggle that brings him to the brink of despair. His religious turmoil is set against the backdrop of the age-old antagonism between Shia and Sunni Muslims on ancient Mesopotamian grounds; the author deftly uses characters like Ali, a Kurdish Shia Muslim, and Antasha, a lapsed Jew, to illustrate the region’s immemorial rivalries. Browne has crafted a historically astute and dramatically exciting novel that offers both theological insights and a surfeit of action. He admirably avoids the pitfalls of facile caricature, and seeks an empathetic comprehension of even the least attractive characters, resulting in an impressive moral study. But, as in its predecessor, there is simply too much crammed into one book, with plot overkill that leads to a bloated length. In addition, the story’s message of Christian hope is at times heavy-handedly proselytizing.
An unusually thoughtful action-adventure tale, sometimes sabotaged by an excess of ambition.