From the award-winning author of Safe Houses—an "intelligent, tense and sharply written espionage thriller” (Wall Street Journal) about a CIA agent and a young expat who find themselves caught up in a dangerous world, whose secrets, if revealed, could have disastrous repercussions for them both.
When CIA agent Claire Saylor is told that she’ll be going undercover in Hamburg to pose as the wife of an academic who has published a controversial interpretation of the Quran’s promise to martyrs, she assumes the job is a punishment for past unorthodox behavior. But when she discovers her team leader is Paul Bridger, another Agency maverick, she realizes there may be more to this mission than meets the eye—and not just for professional reasons.
Meanwhile, across town in Hamburg, Mahmoud, a recent Moroccan émigré, begins to fall under the sway of a group of radicals at his local mosque. The deeper he’s drawn into the group, the greater the danger he faces, and he is soon torn between his obligations to them and his feelings toward a beautiful Westernized Muslim woman.
As Claire learns the truth about her mission, and Mahmoud grows closer to the radicals, the danger between them builds and spells disaster far beyond the CIA.
Set in 1999, this gripping if uneven spy thriller from Fesperman (Safe Houses) fictionalizes the story of the terrorist cell in Hamburg, Germany, responsible for the 9/11 attacks. CIA agent Claire Saylor goes undercover, posing as the wife of an academic with an explosive new interpretation of the Koran launching a book at an event in Hamburg. But Saylor's real job is to understand what the terrorist cell is up to—and she soon discovers other American agents are focused on the same group of Islamists. A parallel plot focused on Mahmoud Yassin, an Arab youth who becomes radicalized and joins the cell, raises the tension. Identities and motives are tantalizingly muddled, and Fesperman, a fine stylist, does a good job portraying the elusive, frustrating nature of espionage, but Saylor, more pawn than leader, doesn't seem to be the narrative's obvious fulcrum, and the suspense is undercut by the knowledge that the Hamburg cell succeeded in its mission. With the 20th anniversary of 9/11 looming, this solid effort is worth a look.