I am currently reading my way through a long list of science fiction and fantasy titles. (http://www.npr.org/2011/08/07/138938145/science-fiction-and-fantasy-finalists if you are interested in the list).
Billions of dollars are missing from Iraqi banks, and journalist Luca Terracini will risk everything to discover where it is. His Iraqi-American background has made it easier for him to infiltrate the darkest corners of the war, but death of his beloved Nicola in a suicide bombing has made him reckless. He has nothing left to lose.
In pursuit of the money, he meets UN representative Daniela Garner, who seems to know more about the heist than anyone else. She's a valuable asset in Baghdad where the possibility of an explosion lurks at every checkpoint. Luca's investigation proves volatile as well, and as he gets closer to the missing money, his actions begin to reverberate around the world.
In London, Richard North, a top-tier international banker and the one person who might be able to explain where the money has gone, vanishes. The manhunt for him will get Luca evicted from Iraq, separated from Daniela, and possibly end both his investigation and his life.
As usual, it's all about the money: who has it, who's lost it, and who's ultimately going to pay, as clandestine agents emerge from the shadows and powerful nations seek to control information and bury secrets, whatever the cost.
I picked up this novel because it is the July 2015 choice of my book club. I was dreading it, having read the dust jacket and thinking that it was really not my thing. Once again, I am grateful that my book club compatriots have stretched my reading comfort zone.
Having said that, it still really wasn’t my cuppa tea, but that doesn’t mean that I didn’t get pulled along for the adventure. Just like the Jack Reacher novel that we read last year for book club, it’s hard to resist finishing the book. I was surprised to find that it was 5th in a series (Joseph O’Loughlin series) and that the guy named in the series doesn’t appear until about 2/3 of the way through the book.
The retired policeman, Ruiz, is the one who most reminds me of Jack Reacher—he always seems to be planning ahead in order to stay one step ahead of the bad guys and always can find something to use as a weapon at strategic moments. The journalist Luca’s sections benefit from the author’s experience in the field, as do the multiple settings (Bagdad, London, Washington). It is refreshing to read a thriller that is not set exclusively in the USA. On the other hand, it is rather depressing to get a glimpse into post-war Iraq. One wonders if there will ever be peace in that area of the world.
Men are certainly portrayed at their worst—most are on the take either monetarily or sexually. If they are half-way good, they are damaged beyond repair. I would like to believe better of the men in my life, one of the reasons why I usually avoid this hyper-masculine type of fiction. You can practically smell the testosterone emanating from the pages!
Interestingly, all three women in the book seem to have no friends. They talk to no other women, they simply focus exclusively on the men in their lives. I know absolutely no women who are like this. We all have friends and we talk to them regularly. In a book with a lot of unrealistic plot elements, I thought this was the most glaring.
Also the banking industry—please tell me it’s not really like this! Like a stately ancient tree that looks lovely and flourishing on the outside, but is rotten and hollow on the inside.