“Pain would follow, excruciating pain, and then if he was lucky, a quick death. But spies, Ari knew from experience, rarely bumped into luck.”
Spy thrillers require analytical discipline and creative risk-taking. Fortunately, both the left side of the author’s brain and the right are clicking on all cylinders in this intellectually stimulating and emotionally compelling set piece. It torments with the moral conundrums of le Carré, pulses with the action of Ludlum, and haunts with the guilt of Graham Greene.

Set in the Middle East, the protagonist is an Israeli agent whose undercover assignments have taken their toll mentally and spiritually. Offered the opportunity of a relatively routine assignment to smuggle Jewish children out of Damascus, he accepts. Thus begins his immersion into another false identity and a labyrinth of lies that will have him cozying up to a den of ex-Nazis, playing cat and mouse with Syrian security forces, and unwillingly falling for a beautiful American photographer who just might be his last chance at real love.

Kaplan spins an intricately nuanced plot that bobs and weaves between trepidation and treachery. He paces his tale with the speed and skill of a Formula 1 driver. Yet he never rushes the details of time, place, and atmosphere. His writing style is admirably spare, revealing just enough to make us ask questions and want to know more. Between his pages brutality shares space with intimacy, and we are reminded that both action and inaction have consequences. Originally penned in 1977, Kaplan’s narrative never feels dated, which is proven by the fact that some forty years later it has now been turned into a major motion picture. If the film is only half as good as the novel, it will be more than worth the price of admission.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review