An NPR Best Book of the Year
From a veteran insider with over twenty years’ experience in the U.S. Foreign Service comes a taut, insightful thriller of global intrigue and behind-the-scenes international politics.
Sam Trainor’s career of overseas work coupled with a penchant for being outspoken has left him on the outside of the competitive Washington establishment. Formerly the top South Asia expert in the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research, Trainor has moved to the private sector, working as an analyst for the consulting firm Argus Systems.
But Sam soon discovers that for all their similarities, the government and their hired contractors have vastly different motives. As he struggles to adjust to a more corporate, profit-driven version of the work that had been his life, he stumbles across an intelligence anomaly—the transcript of a phone conversation about the fastest ways to upend the delicate political balance keeping India and Pakistan from all-out war. Yet Sam knows that conversation can’t have occurred—because he is having an affair with one of the alleged participants.
As he digs into the source of this misinformation, he realizes that more is at stake than just bad intel. Someone is deliberately twisting the intelligence to stoke the simmering conflict between India and Pakistan, nuclear-armed rivals that have already fought multiple wars. And Sam’s new employer could be up to its neck in it.
Recently retired State Department officer Sam Trainor, the hero of Palmer's exciting second thriller (after 2014's The American Mission), has bounced around the subcontinent of South Asia during his 25-year career until retiring and taking a job with Argus Systems, a contractor supplying intelligence and analysis of South Asia to the CIA. While reading top-secret intel on his computer, Sam stumbles on an NSA report of a phone call involving Vanalika Chandra, the political counselor at the Indian embassy in Washington, D.C., with whom he's having an affair. The substance of the call concerns a clandestine project whose purpose is to drive India and Pakistan into a nuclear war. As Sam follows this lead, the bodies begin to fall. After a group of terrorists steal a Pakistani nuclear warhead, Sam finds himself in a race to find and defuse the bomb before it destroys an entire city. Readers will be pleased that the ending suggests Sam will be back.