Bestseller Gruber (Forgery of Venus) explores America's political involvement in South Asia and the bloody religious and ethnic fanaticism associated with the region in his superb seventh novel. Sonia Laghari, a Pakistani-American writer and psychologist, sets up a conference on peace in Kashmir, “the most terrorist-infested place on earth,” only to have her and her small group of pacifists abducted and held captive by terrorists, who may or may not be manufacturing nuclear weapons. All but doomed to a public beheading, Sonia uses her familiarity with Islamic doctrine as well as her knowledge of Jungian psychology in an attempt to enlighten her deeply conflicted captors. Though the numerous bombshells at the end may strain credulity, the brilliant character development and labyrinthine plot line, not to mention the absorbing history of modern jihadism and the U.S. war on terrorism, make this a provocative thriller that readers won't soon forget. (May)
Gruber (The Book of Air and Shadows) has established an enviable reputation as a writer who both challenges readers' minds and stirs up their blood. His latest high-stakes thriller—good from start to finish—will enhance this reputation. In Pakistan, a band of jihadists kidnaps nine members of an international peace symposium; among those captured is psychologist Sonia Laghari, who has a long, complicated involvement in Pakistan and the rest of the Muslim world. She uses Jungian insights and her faith to build fragile bridges to the jihadists, trying to persuade them to confront their violent choices. Meanwhile, her soldier son races to save her. He plots with well-placed relatives in Pakistan to trick the Americans into sending in troops, while a hotshot analyst with the NSA tries to convince her superiors they're being hoaxed. The three narratives converge in an unexpected and satisfying climax. VERDICT There are many surprises in this excellent thriller, including its ability to inform. It should appeal broadly to lovers of spy stories and action novels in general. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 1/10.]—David Keymer, Modesto, CA
A son reconnects with his past as he goes to astonishing lengths to save his mother from the radicals who have kidnapped her. When terrorists in Pakistan snatch the participants in a peace symposium, one of the people they grab is Sonia Laghari. They quickly learn that she is no ordinary hostage. On one hand, Sonia's quite a prize. She's been wanted for decades in the Islamic world, ever since she went on the hajj disguised as a man, violating Islamic law along the way. On the other hand, Sonia's not the sort of person to quietly do as her captors command, and with the skills she's learned from her childhood in the circus, her Jungian training and her propensity for using quotes from the Koran against her captors, she has plenty of unusual tools on hand to cause problems. Perhaps the most dangerous thing Sonia has going for her, though, is the fact that her son is the legendary Kakay Ghazan, a famous mujahideen who once, as a young boy, single-handedly captured a Russian base during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. But now the proud Pashtun warrior Kakay Ghazan is Theo Bailey, an American citizen and ex-Delta who serves on a top-secret U.S. military team. When Theo figures out there probably won't be an official mission to rescue his mother and the rest of the symposium participants, he decides to do whatever it takes to get her out. Meanwhile, back in the States, a young translator on her way up begins to suspect something fishy is going on with all the cell-phone intercepts they've been catching lately, wherein radical Islamists are uncharacteristically bold about discussing a nuclear device they seem to have gotten their hands on. Gruber (The Forgery of Venus, 2008, etc.) weavesthe threads together masterfully while successfully exploring themes of family, duty, loyalty, cultural identity and more, without ever slowing the momentum. Smart, tense and vastly entertaining.
“This is a thriller, but also a novel of the mindI learned more about the radical mindset in these 320 pages than in all the political punditry I've read or watched in the last five years. Highly recommended.” Stephen King
“… The brilliant character development and the labyrinthine plot line, not to mention the absorbing history of modern jihadism and the U.S. war on terrorism, make this a provocative thriller that readers won't soon forget.” PW (Starred)
“Is there anything Gruber can't write about? In this richly layered tale,… there are twists and tension aplentyideas, too. If only governments were half as interested in the psychology of violence, maybe war itself might become a work of fiction.” Booklist (Starred)
“Gruber… weaves threads together masterfully while successfully exploring themes of family, duty, loyalty, cultural identity and more, without ever slowing the momentum. Smart, tense and vastly entertaining.” Kirkus
“The Good Son, by Michael Gruber, is one of those few and far between complex, intelligent, and insightful thrillers. The main character, Theo Bailey, is a Special Operations soldier who decides to take a more-or-less unauthorized leave from the Army to locate his mother, Jungian psychotherapist Sonia Bailey Laghari, who's disappeared near Kashmir. Sonia, who'd become a practicing Muslim when she married a Pakistani, was in South Asia to convene a symposium on "Conflict Resolution on the Subcontinent: A Therapeutic Approach" with a group of fellow pacifists. Ironicallygiven the title of the symposiumshe and her fellow participants, who include an American billionaire, a Jesuit priest, and a Quaker couple, are kidnapped by terrorists, who may or may not have nuclear weapons at their disposal. Unless Theo can figure out what's going on and how to foil the terrorists' plans, his mother is doomed. At worst, the terrorists will use the nuclear devices; at best, Sonia and the rest will die by beheading. Because you're immediately sucked into the intricate and page-turning plot, this is a good novel for a long plane flight; but readers who are looking for a thriller with a strong philosophical subtextthe sort of novel that makes you think about families, loyalty, religion, and politicswill find just what they're looking for in Gruber's finest novel to date.” Nancy Pearl, Booklust