Lion of Babylon

Lion of Babylon

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by Davis Bunn

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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

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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?

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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Baker Publishing Group
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5.80(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.30(d)

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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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Lion of Babylon 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 36 reviews.
A_Cluttered_Mind More than 1 year ago
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.
Doug-from-Alaska More than 1 year ago
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'...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was just ok. It starts very slow. Picks up too late.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
too much extra history - not enough plot.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Minnesota_ReaderAN More than 1 year ago
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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ChiriKW More than 1 year ago
good read, very interesting
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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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TinkCC More than 1 year ago
Great novel....can't wait to read his other books!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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.
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