Lion of Babylon

( 36 )


Marc Royce works for the State Department on special assignments, most of them rather routine, until two CIA operatives go missing in Iraq--kidnapped by Taliban forces bent on generating chaos in the region. Two others also drop out of sight--a high-placed Iraqi civilian and an American woman providing humanitarian aid. Are the disappearances linked? Rumors circulate in a whirl of misinformation.

Marc must unravel the truth in a covert operation requiring utmost secrecy--from ...

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Lion of Babylon (A Marc Royce Thriller Book #1)

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Marc Royce works for the State Department on special assignments, most of them rather routine, until two CIA operatives go missing in Iraq--kidnapped by Taliban forces bent on generating chaos in the region. Two others also drop out of sight--a high-placed Iraqi civilian and an American woman providing humanitarian aid. Are the disappearances linked? Rumors circulate in a whirl of misinformation.

Marc must unravel the truth in a covert operation requiring utmost secrecy--from both the Americans and the insurgents. But even more secret than the undercover operation is the underground dialogue taking place between sworn enemies. Will the ultimate Reconciler between ancient enemies, current foes, and fanatical religious factions be heard?

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Four people have gone missing in Iraq. The Taliban abducted two CIA operatives, but an Iraqi civilian and an American doing humanitarian work in the region have also vanished. Ex-intelligence officer Marc Royce is sent on an undercover mission to investigate the disappearances. Are they related? VERDICT Bunn's (The Black Madonna) exciting, action-packed thriller features a strong sense of place in its depictions of the people and politics of the Middle East. It is sure to please his fans and win him new ones. And it might be a good pick for readers who like the Christian suspense stories of Oliver North.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780764209055
  • Publisher: Baker Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/1/2011
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 482,921
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

A native North Carolinian who now lives abroad, Davis Bunn is a bestselling and award-winning writer whose growing list of novels demonstrates the scope and diversity of his writing talent. Isabella Bunn has been a vital part of husband Davis's writing success, and her careful research and attention to detail have left their imprint on nearly every story. They live near Oxfordshire, England.
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Read an Excerpt

Lion of Babylon

By Davis Bunn

Bethany House Publishers

Copyright © 2011 Davis Bunn
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-7642-0905-5

Chapter One

He exited the church's double doors and surveyed the gathering. Ladies in their signature hats chatted and laughed while children played tag about their legs. Singles clustered around the periphery, drawn together by situation and need. The diverse congregation mirrored its Baltimore neighborhood. Marc Royce knew many of them, and would have been welcomed by most. But it had been some time since he'd moved easily among friends. Even here.

Spring sunlight glinted off a windshield to his right. Marc watched a limo glide down the block toward them. Dark-tinted windows reflected the trees and the stone church. As the vehicle approached, the back window began to roll down.

The congregation grew watchful, tense. In Washington, fifty miles to the south, only a tourist gave a black Town Car a second glance. But in Baltimore, limos meant something else entirely. A lot of Baltimore's drive-bys started like this, with tinted windows masking rage and weapons until the very last moment.

Which was why all the parishioners gathered in front of the church's steps gave the slow-moving limo a very hard look.

The Town Car swept through the surrounding traffic like a beast of the deep. The rear window was now all the way down. Marc tensed with the others, and reached for the gun he no longer wore.

Then an old man's face appeared in the open window. The lone passenger was white and old and paid the congregation no mind. He leaned forward and spoke to his driver. Apparently the window was down simply so the old man could enjoy the fine spring day.

Appearances, Marc knew, could be deceiving.

The limo swept around the corner and disappeared. The gathering resumed their Sunday chats. Marc gave it a few beats, long enough for his departure not to be tied to the limo, then walked around the corner.

As expected, the Town Car idled at the curb. With Marc's approach, the rear door opened. He slipped inside, leaving every vestige of the church's peace outside with the sunlight and the cool spring air.

* * *

The limo driver pulled away before Marc had the car door shut. It was a typical Washington power move, as though the world turned too slowly to suit.

The old man asked, "How've you been, Marc?"

"Fine, sir."

"That's not what I hear."

When Marc did not respond, the old man smirked, as though Marc's silence was a feeble defense. "You're suffocating, is what I hear. You're not made for this life. You never were. You're going through the motions. There's nothing worse than a wasted life. Believe me, son. I know."

Marc did not ask how the old man was faring. The last time they had met, it had been in the back seat on an identical ride. They had argued. Rather, the old man had raged while Marc fumed in silence. Then the old man had fired Marc and dumped him on a rutted Baltimore street.

"What are you doing here?" Marc asked. "Sir."

"We have a problem. A big one."

"There is no 'we.' Neither one of us works for the government anymore. You're retired. I was dismissed. Remember?"

Ambassador Walton was the former chief of State Department Intelligence. In the three years since their last meeting, the ambassador had been forced off his throne. The Glass Castle, as the Potomac building housing State Intel was known, was ruled by another man now. Marc went on, "You called me a disgrace to the intelligence service."

Ambassador Walton had shrunk to where he wore his skin like a partially deflated balloon. The flesh draped about his collar shook slightly as he growled, "You got precisely what you deserved."

"I took a leave of absence to care for my wife."

"I gave you the department maximum. Six weeks. You took nine months."

"Both our parents were gone. She had nobody else."

"You could have gotten help."

Marc bit down on the same argument that had gone unspoken in their last meeting. He had lost his mother when he was six. When his father had become ill, Marc had been in Chile protecting national interests. His father, a construction electrician who had not finished high school, had been intensely proud of his son's achievements. So proud, in fact, he had ordered his second wife not to let Marc know he was on the verge of checking out. Marc had arrived home just in time for the funeral.

Taking whatever time required to care for his wife had been a no-brainer.

When the limo pulled up in front of Marc's home, he reached for the door handle.

"Thanks for stopping by."

"Alex Baird has gone missing."

Marc's hand dropped.

Alex Baird was assistant chief of security in the Green Zone, the safety precinct in the heart of Baghdad. Marc might have been out of the intel game. And America might officially be done with that particular war. But to have an American agent go missing in Baghdad was very bad news.

What was more, Alex was the only friend who had not abandoned Marc after the ambassador cut him loose. Alex had remained in regular contact. He had tried repeatedly to effect a truce between Marc and the ambassador. But Walton's definition of loyalty was black and white. A subordinate was on duty twenty-four-seven. Everything else was secondary.

State Intel was the smallest of the nation's intelligence forces, responsible for security in every overseas nonmilitary base. Their remit included all embassies, consulates, ambassadorial residences, and treaty houses. The head of State Intel held ambassadorial rank so as to interact with the heads of various missions at an equal level.

Ambassador Walton expected subordinates to treat his every request as a reason to go the distance and beyond. In return, the man accelerated their climb through the Washington hierarchy. Walton's former protégés held positions in the CIA, Pentagon, Congressional Intel oversight committees, and the White House. Another directed the capitol's top intel think tank, yet another served as ambassador to Zaire. In Walton's opinion, Marc Royce had done the unforgivable. He had put his wife first. He had walked away.

Ambassador Walton broke into Marc's thoughts. "You think if I had any choice I'd show up here and grovel?"

"When did Alex go off the grid?"

"Almost three days ago. Seventy hours, to be exact."

Three days missing in Baghdad meant one of two things. Either Alex had been kidnapped, or he was buried in a dusty grave. Marc considered it a toss-up which one would be worse.

"The official line is, Alex has eloped. He's supposedly hiding under a false passport at some Red Sea resort. With a young lady he met through a local Baghdad pastor."

"That's impossible."

"The young lady is also missing. And she was seeing Alex." Walton handed over a file. "Hannah Brimsley. Volunteer serving at the church in the Green Zone. Also missing is a second young woman, Claire Reeves. Civilian nurse contracted to the base hospital at Bagram Air Base."

"For one thing, Alex would no more walk away from a duty station than ..." Marc was about to say, than he would. But since this was precisely what Walton felt he had done, Marc let the sentence drop. "For another, if Alex was romantically involved, I would know it."

"He never mentioned any secret work to you, something beyond the scope of his official remit?"

"Nothing like that."

"You've remained in regular contact?"

"Emails a couple of times a week."

"He hasn't mentioned any problems related to his current role?"

"Alex loves his work. He lives for it." Marc fingered the woman's file. "How did you come up with an intel work-up on a missing civilian?"

Walton looked uncomfortable for the first time. "I never left."

This was news. "Did Alex know?"

Walton shrugged that away. "Officially I'm gone. But I was asked to remain on as a consultant."

"To whom?"

"I'll tell you on the way to the airport." Walton's gaze was the only part of him that had not softened with the passing years. "I'm not even going to bother with asking if you're in. Go pack. You're wheels up in three hours."

* * *

Marc's house was a Colonial-era brownstone overlooking one of the city's miniature parks. The green was rimmed by ancient oaks, so tall they could reach across the street and shelter his bedroom window. Marc's father had bought the house from the city back when the neighborhood had been a drug-infested war zone. The city had condemned the abandoned hulks, cleared out the drug paraphernalia, and sold them for a song. The renovations had taken five years and carried his father through grieving over the loss of Marc's mother. After his father's death, Marc had bought the place from his stepmother, who had wanted to return to her family in Spartanburg. Marc often wondered what his father would have thought, knowing the beautiful old place had comforted two grieving generations.

Ambassador Walton remained downstairs. He claimed his heart condition no longer permitted him the luxury of climbing stairs. Marc was grateful for the momentary solitude. As he tossed his gear into a bag, his gaze remained held by the photograph on his bedside table. Marc zipped up the case and sat down on the side of the bed. Walton's querulous voice called from downstairs. Marc did not respond. He was too caught up in a conversation that had lasted three long years.

The photograph had been taken on just another sunlit afternoon. The brownstone did not possess much of a yard. So like most of their new neighbors, he and Lisbeth had claimed the park as their own. That day, they had taken an impromptu picnic across the street to watch a lazy springtime sunset. Marc had been going off somewhere the next morning. Such outings had been Lisbeth's way to slow him down, force him to turn away from the coming pressures and pay attention to her.

Marc had taken her picture in a moment when the veils of normal life had fallen away, and Lisbeth shone with love. The photograph had resided in an album until the week after the funeral, when he had awakened in the night and realized that not only was she gone, but he would someday forget her ability to perfume almost any moment.

Marc studied the picture, wishing there was some way to formally acknowledge the fact that the time had come to move on. He had not felt this close to Lisbeth for a long time. The sense that she again filled his room and his heart left him certain that she wanted him to go. Do this thing.

A man, Marc silently told the photograph in his hands, could overdose on stability and quiet. Recently his most fervent prayer had contained no words at all, just a silent secret hunger. If he had been able to name his yearning, it would have been for pandemonium. Something to lift his life from boredom and sameness.

He remained there, staring at the best part of his past, until Walton's voice drew him into the unknown.


Excerpted from Lion of Babylon by Davis Bunn Copyright © 2011 by Davis Bunn. Excerpted by permission of Bethany House Publishers. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 36 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 36 Customer Reviews
  • Posted August 31, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Spell-binding; left me breathless

    Gripping. Stunning. Intriguing.
    A real "page-turner." Suspenseful.
    Creative. Descriptive. Imaginative.
    I could go on. Bunn has done a masterful job of transporting the reader to another place, and to what might almost seem, another time. Though set in modern day Iraq, during the time when the Iraqis are seeking to establish a post-Saddam government, Davis Bunn describes the setting so well, you'd think you'd been taken back in time to another world. Sights, sounds, even smells float up off the page. Spice, mint, a melange of other odors kept stirring my senses throughout this book.
    The plot was first-rate for this genre. I've read a great deal of Vince Flynn, Tom Clancy, Robert Ludlum and enjoy the espianoge genre. I truly enjoyed my first experience at reading Davis Bunn. He does a superb job of keeping the reader into the suspense and tension of the plot. I felt it moved at a great pace (contra other reviews I've read, but it makes me think they've never read in this genre before). There were moments I was breathless and then relieved; drawn in and on edge, as well as moved deeply. There is a scene in a "secret" church gathering with Americans, Iraqis, Sunni and Shia alike gathered for worship, making it only about Jesus that is so touching, I almost felt like I was Sameh el-Jacobi, being moved so deeply by the Spirit that tears flowed down my face.
    Bunn's main character, Marc Royce, fits into the "spy thriller" mold: he's reluctant, yet able to take complete charge of a situation; feeling manipulated by handlers, yet still gets the job done for the sake of country (and, in this case, a foreign country that he becomes very fond of very quickly); aloof and yet very human.

    If you've never read in this area before, I'd recommend this book. It contains the feel of some of the biggest best-sellers on the "secular" market without all the foul language, innuendo (or worse, blatant descriptiveness) and cynicism. If you're an "old familiar" with this type of book, grab it and read it and wait for a great ride. Once you start, you won't put it down.

    I highly recommend the Lion of Babylon.

    A complimentary copy of this book was received for review purposes only.

    6 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 19, 2012

    Excellent Story! Introduces a 'Real Hero' who is also a Christian!

    Marc Royce is summoned by his former boss (the one who fired him several months previous) because he - the 'former boss' - knows that Marc is very likely the ONLY one who can rescue a CIA 'Asset' gone missing. Soon after arrival, he learns that the one missing man is in reality four missing people (and one of them is an Iraqi citizen. To add to the mystery and suspense, he also learns that there are 'powers that be' on BOTH SIDES OF THE ISSUE that would rather ignore the situation and allow the four missing people to remain 'missing'...

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2012

    Give it a try

    Good plot and I like the main character. If you enjoy military stories then this is a good story to try. I gave it three stars because multiple pages were missing and I missed parts of conversations between characters. I also gave it three stars because it didn't hold my interest. I put the book down for a few fays at a time before deciding to finish it. But I do think you should try it for yourself...maybe the missing pages threw me off.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 2, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Can one man change a country's opinion of Americans?

    Marc Royce is a former employee of State Intel, which is the smallest of the nation's intelligence forces responsible for security in every overseas non military base from embassies, consulates, ambassadorial residences to treaty houses. He was fired because he had the the unforgivable. He put his wife first to care for her after having a stroke for 9 months, the state only offered him 6 weeks. Since then, he has carried around her death like a burden he can't see to put down.

    Now that Alex Baird has gone missing in the heart of Baghdad for almost 3 days, Marc is being called back in by those who fired him, to locate and bring back Alex and two other women who went missing with him. An American agent to go missing in Baghdad was very bad news, and Alex was the only friend not to abandon Marc when they let him go.

    In the latest suspense thriller, Lion of Babylon by Davis Bunn, we are taken into the heat of Baghdad while things are still very hostile for Americans. In the midst of removing Saddam Hussein from power, the country is still struggling to find it's new form of government while religious groups via to maintain power and control over the country. Now it's up to Marc to not only find Alex but to show Baghdad's leaders that not all American's wish them harm.

    I received this book compliments of Christian Fiction Blog Alliance for my honest review and once again, loved it. I read it from cover to cover in one sitting and was completely held captive to his writing style. Feeling like I was a partner along with Marc, we attempted to unlock whatever clues were necessary to find Alex Baird alive and find out just why people wanted to keep his abduction a secret, even those within our own government. I give this book a 5 out of 5 stars and can't wait to read more by David Bunn.

    2 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 31, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommended!

    Great novel....can't wait to read his other books!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 7, 2012

    I can't even begin to describe this book.

    The characters in this book especially the main character marc royce took my breath away. this story just blew my mind away, this imy new favorite book. I am in love with this book ,and i especially like the part where he visits the one church, it just amazing how people can put aside their differences and be one in Christ. AMAZING!

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 2, 2012


    The characters were strong and unique. I can't wait for Marc's next adventure. It will surely be suspense at it's best. I am a long time Bunn fan and this was no disappointment.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 23, 2011

    Good book...wanted it to be better

    The story follows Marc Royce, a former intelligence officer from the United States, called to Iraq to find a friend who has recently gone missing. He works across national, political and religious lines to bridge gaps and try to find his friend before it's too late. The story is set in Iraq amidst the rebuilding of the country and the struggle for power in the new government. Marc meets new allies and finds new enemies in his quest.

    I thought this was an interesting book with a good story and some good action chapters toward the end of the book. I think it was a little light in character development as it felt like the author gave a brief overview of the main characters, but didn't get real deep. One other thing that I thought was interesting was after Marc had some success, the religious leader was quick to say that all Americans were good. I'm not sure this is a realistic scenario, but I think the author was trying to convey a theme of looking past differences and seeking common ground. I enjoyed the story line of the book, but would have liked to go deeper into the characters that were portrayed.

    I received this book as part of Bethany House Publishing review program. My review is my own and has not been influenced in any way.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 4, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Highly Recommended - you must check it out!!

    Marc Royce loved his job. Working for the State Department up till his abrupt dismissal, because of meaningless issues. Nearly three years later, he is called upon to help solve the problem of three people who have gone missing in Baghdad. One person going missing is a problem. Two people going missing is also a problem. Three people going missing is a gigantic problem. Are they linked? Three people from completely different lifestyles, a nurse, an aid worker, and a wealthy Iraqi boy, yet their disappearances are too similar to be a coincidence. While working on the problem, Marc finds trails of people meeting who were sworn enemies.He discovers a surprising truth that could change the Middle East. Forever. This book was well written out, grabbing one from the first chapter. Usually, books can be given until the end of the first paragraph to draw in a reader. This book did just that. With an Intriguing beginning, and intensely suspenseful end, this book is hard to put down. One will agree that this book had just the right number of pages, and an interesting plot that sets it apart from others. Though fairly sad at parts, Overall, this book was a fantastic read for anyone who enjoys a fast-paced story, on the edge of trouble. One would recommend this book to ages 13+, because younger children would not understand it as well.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Lion of Babylon

    This is a fast-paced action / adventure novel. It is so speedy, in fact, that sometimes the reader will be confused as to what is going on and who all the characters are. This propels the pages as readers piece together the puzzles of the plot, which I won't entirely ruin. The protagonist is--surprise, surprise--a secret agent of sorts. He is in the Middle East and discovers that many Christian Iraqis have gone missing. With violence, mystery, and everything in between, readers and characters alike have to put solve the puzzle of this religious / cultural / controversial who-done-it. Adding to the anxiety is the fact that the protagonist is a widower with possible women he could start his life over with. There are some mentions of church and prayer, but that is about as far as it goes in some respects. While this was very well written, it wasn't my cup of tea since I usually do not read this genre. However, those into this type of story will probably relish the read.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2014


    This book was just ok. It starts very slow. Picks up too late.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 20, 2014

    Davis Bunn is awesome

    Once again Davis Bunn has a series that you cannot put down. I love the fact that there are other options other then war that can unite us together with prayer, and understanding. At this time with news everyday of more war and blood shed, it is sad that the world leaders don't take a page out of Bunn's books. If they did there just might be a chance of peace in this world. If you read this one, just keep going on to the next two books. Thank you Mr. Bunn for sharing you talent and the love of God with us!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2014

    not my cup of tea

    too much extra history - not enough plot.

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  • Posted December 30, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    A good book that kept me interested throughout the entire story.

    A good book that kept me interested throughout the entire story. The further into the book you go the more it holds your attention. Having said that, I still feel as if the story could have been better. My conclusion is that this book is good, escapist reading. Great for the person having a couple days off or in need of reading when on vacation.

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  • Posted December 13, 2013

    good read

    good read, very interesting

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 14, 2013

    Not very good

    This was very hard to get into despite the bought plot spoilers that raved over it. It dragged for pages, the muslim names were unpronouncable, and the action just wasnt there.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2013

    Great read!!!

    This was a wonderful book filled with adventure, intrigue, and inspiration! First time I've read a book by this author, David Burn, but it won't be my last! It was eye opening to read of what the Iraqi people go through every day to just stay alive. I'll look forward to reading the next adventure of Marc Royce.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 9, 2013

    What I thought was a CIA spy thriller was anything but thrilling

    What I thought was a CIA spy thriller was anything but thrilling. The main characters weren’t put into any sort of danger until well over half way through the book. There is only one maybe two scenes that I would consider interesting and I wouldn’t consider either of them suspenseful as they lack details and story lines which draw a reader in. The antagonist isn’t really defined until the very end so there no one stirring the pot, no one to root against. In the end everything comes up roses as the author is more interested in pushing faith than telling an interesting story. If you want a feel good story underpinned by religion this is your book. If you’re looking for entertainment you probably want to look elsewhere.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Intense and thrilling

    Lion of Babylon by Davis Bunn is filled with intensity from the first page to the last. Each page carries a sincerity and a depth of meaning that draws you further into the world of these characters.

    I was fortunate enough to receive an advance reading copy of this book. Marc Royce is a former U.S. Intelligence Operative who was pulled away from his job to care for his dying wife. Without her or his old job his life has been at a standstill. Marc is called upon by the boss who fired him to go into Iraq and locate an old friend of Marc's who has gone missing along with two other Americans and an Iraqi. People that governments in both countries are not sure that they want found. In Iraq, he meets Sameh el-Jacobi, the most honest man in Iraq. The men form a friendship through mutual assistance and respect. They must work together to find the missing persons with the direction of the country and the Middle East hanging in the balance.

    Davis Bunn creates a convincing portrait of a present-day Iraq. His descriptions are vivid enough that you feel the sun beating down on you and taste the dust in your throat. It is a picture of an Iraq searching for its own way forward and a people trying to live their lives with danger and uncertainty around every corner, and the reminders of their tragic past everywhere they look.

    The main characters are fleshed out with fully-examined motivations. They are in many ways impossibly good people, but they still manage to be believable and you come to care about them and what happens to them. The descriptions of the characters are vivid and poetic: "Up close the man revealed an odd aura, like bullets not yet fired." An author with a less deft touch could make these descriptions seem corny, but there is a sincerity that comes through the writing that avoids that here.

    The plot moves along at a steady pace and the action segments are well-written and exciting. The plot and its characters rely heavily on Christian faith. This may work at odds with the middle-eastern setting, but the characters and the writing are so well done that the book stands as an outstanding thriller. Highly recommended.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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