Of Claire Berlinski’s marvelous debut novel, Loose Lips–a perfect blend of satire, romance, and suspense featuring a young female CIA operative–book critic Frank Bascombe observed: “It’s more than a little obvious that [protagonist] Selena Keller is Claire Berlinski.” Despite her assertions to the contrary, Berlinski isn’t above poking fun at that notion in her hilarious and intriguing new novel.
In Lion Eyes, a fictional Claire–the author of a novel about love among young CIA trainees–is unsuccessfully dodging a deadly Paris heat wave and her even deadlier ex-boyfriend. When she receives an e-mail from an Iranian admirer who wonders how to obtain a copy of Loose Lips in his native city of Esfahan, Claire wastes no time in replying. Her correspondence with the mysterious stranger, Arsalan–whose name means “the Lion” in Persian–quickly becomes personal, then intimate . . . then obsessive.
As Claire heads to Istanbul to find relief from the heat, her electronic flirtation with Arsalan begins, inevitably, to consume her. The boundary between reality and her imagination blurs and then disappears. The Lion, meanwhile, is nurturing his own powerful fantasies about the author. To satisfy their growing passion, they agree to meet, back in Paris, but Claire soon learns that someone is secretly intercepting their communications.
Suddenly, Claire’s romantic dreams start to dissolve. As events take an unimagined turn, and as life begins menacingly to imitate art, Claire discovers that the Lion is not who she thinks he is.
Clever and witty, Lion Eyes showcases intriguing characters, exotic locales, snappy double entendres, clever spy games, and the forbidden pleasure of reading other people’s mail. Claire Berlinski (the real Claire Berlinshi, that is) expertly plots out chance and chase, love and lies, and brings it all together with intelligence, counterintelligence, and a dossier full of humor.
Narrated with verve and lan, Berlinski's sly second thriller flirts more with romance than danger. During the hot summer of 2003, a Paris-based American novelist named Claire Berlinksi gets into an online affair with a Persian archeologist who may be a spy. According to the preface, something similar happened to the author. Arsalan (aka "the Lion"), who lives in Isfahan, Iran, admires the real author's debut about a female CIA trainee, Loose Lips (2003), and is sure Claire has actual CIA ties. At Arsalan's suggestion, Claire swaps apartments with a colleague of his in Istanbul, Turkey. There Claire meets a cheerful if less than competent CIA agent, Sally, who asks her help in getting to Arsalan. Claire and the zany supporting cast make this tale of thwarted intimacy as overseen by the gimlet eye of the World Wide Web (and CIA) an entertaining example of what Claire calls the tantalizing "intersection between what you write and the truth." Keen social commentary on Paris and Istanbul adds to the fun. Berlinski is also the author of Menace in Europe: Why the Continent's Crisis Is America's, Too.