This is the first book in an intriguing new mystery suspense series featuring our main character, Lee Caruthers, a CIA analyst who seems to have had more than her share of assignments where she is risking her life. She is growing tired of field work and wants out but clearly that isn't meant to be at the start of this book. Lee is a strong character. She is fiercely independent, loyal to the right people, and hard to crack. She is tough on the outside when she needs to be but also just as vulnerable as an ordinary person on the inside. This was what gave her depth and made her appealing in the story. She still feels pain and compassion, and has nightmares about some of the things she has seen. She cares about the people she knows. She is an analyst who had a certain set of skills that allowed her to be put into dangerous places on dangerous assignments. I liked her a lot.
As the story begins, Lee is assigned to find Alicia Harmon, another agent who seemed to have stumbled onto something big and disappeared. She is sent to Fez, Morocco, which is the main setting of the story. Almost right away, several attempts are made on her life. She uses her contacts to help her find information to put her on Alicia's trail. One of these is Kemal, a pipe bar owner who is more than just a contact. Their relationship is complicated because of... well, a lot of things including geography, religious beliefs, etc. but it was refreshing to see that they truly cared about one another and used each other for comfort when they needed to. Aside from Kemal, there were quite a few minor characters who Lee comes into contact with throughout the story. Since this is the first story in a series, I'm betting some of the informants who had only a small part in this book will be seen again in the future.
There is plenty of action and suspense offered and the reader will be on the edge of their seat more than once. Soon after Lee arrives in Fez, she is consistently pursued and thrown into near death situations. She has blood on her shirt on more than one occasion so there are some violent scenes in the book. The violence is described in just the right amount of detail to make it scarily realistic but not over the top gory. Enough to see the events clearly through Lee's eyes and plenty enough to allow the reader a small sample of the atrocities of terrorism and to empathize with the people who live this reality on a daily basis.
There are a few different groups mentioned to set the story up for the reader including government and terrorist groups as well as others. Keeping them all straight at the beginning of the story might be difficult but once the story really gets moving after the first couple of chapters, they become easier to keep track of. The book becomes hard to put down at this point and I found myself reading well into the night, often biting my fingernails as I waited to see what would happen next. I loved the scenes in the book that reminded me of an old school spy novel or T.V. show, especially the scene where Lee is brought to a dank basement and interrogated, being asked the same question over and over again by three different people. Little bits of humor like this are scattered throughout the story and are even more humorous as we listen to Lee's sarcastic inner thinking as she deals with each each event. Without giving away spoilers, the reader is set up for the plot of the next book at the end of this one. I will certainly be picking it up when it is published to see where Lee ends up next.