State Department crisis expert Judd Ryker is dispatched to Zimbabwe to help manage a potentially explosive election pitting the nation's corrupt six-term president against an outspoken female challenger.
Moss' last novel, The Golden Hour (2014), took its title from Ryker's theory that political crises, like medical traumas, can be cured if proper measures are taken during the crucial period following the outbreak of troubles. This time, Ryker is eager to test a related theory that desired results can be brought about by acting forcefully during periods of great uncertainty—in this case between the casting of ballots and the official announcement of election results. State Department officials who scoff at Ryker's "ivory tower ideas" are determined to keep 88-year-old incumbent Winston Tinotenda in power, as bad as he and his scheming right-hand general, Simba Chimurenga, are. Ryker, however, supports the opposition candidate, Gugu Mutonga, a lawyer who seeks justice for the victims of a massacre the army carried out and covered up. Moss, a former diplomat in West Africa, draws from his experience to produce a tense, fast-paced, utterly convincing picture of chaos in the making. That Ryker acts not like a supersleuth but as the former Amherst professor he is makes the book even more persuasive. Another key figure is exiled Ethiopian dictator Solomon Zagwe (based on Mengistu Haile Mariam), who's been given safe harbor by Tinotenda despite perpetrating the Red Fear, which claimed the lives of untold numbers of Ethiopians in the 1970s.
A brilliantly orchestrated realpolitik thriller, Moss' second effort is as instructive as it is exciting.