An Accidental American by Alex Carr
Random House, 2007
Suspense/Thriller; 228 pgs
Rating: (Very Good)
First Sentence: Home, Sabri Hanj reminded himself as the jet touched down and the massive engines whined themselves to sleep.
Reason for Reading: The title caught my attention after I found in on the available books to review list for Curled Up With a Good Book, and a brief look at the synopsis of the book settled the matter. This was a book I wanted to read.
Comments: From a farmhouse in the Pyrennes Mountains to the streets of Lisbon, Alex Carr takes readers into a world of intrigue and espionage. After a life of crime and a stint in prison, Nicole Blake has settled into a quiet life in France, wanting nothing more than to remain unnoticed. Her only companion is her beloved dog, Lucifer.
Her peaceful life is shattered, however, when she finds American Central Intelligence Officer John Valsamis on her doorstep. Reviving buried memories and using veiled threats that her secrets and past will cost her everything, he gives her no choice but to cooperate. Valsamis asks Nicole to help locate and reel in her former lover, Rahim Ali, a suspected terrorist. Nicole is not sure what to believe. Rahim had not held such strong beliefs or ties during their time together, and yet she knows much could change over several years time.
Valsamis tells her he needs her help in luring Rahim out, suggesting that her ex-lover is believed to be planning an event “worse than Nairobi.” He is believed to be in Lisbon, the city where he and Nicole met and had made a life for themselves all those years ago. Nicole sets out for Lisbon, stepping back onto her old stomping grounds and visiting old sources in search of answers. The trail proves to be a dangerous one not only for herself but those she comes in contact with. The stakes are life and death.
Nicole is a tough but wounded woman. She knows how to survive. She wants to trust and wants to believe what she’s been told, however, doubts creep in. Valsamis is determined and carries his own scars from the past. He will not let anyone stand in his way of getting what he wants. Both Nicole and Valsamis are complex characters whose stories are not quite what they may seem at first glance.
Written from different perspectives, one scene fades into the next. The past and present are woven together as Nicole remembers her life with Rahim and her own childhood in Beirut. Valsamis recalls his own history as well; his secrets and regrets. They both come to realize that their pasts, including secrets kept, are a part of their present lives, tied closely together. The past is not something they can ever escape.
The author centers the story around one significant historical event, the bombing of the American Embassy in Beirut in 1983. Sixty-three people were killed when a van full of explosives was detonated directly outside the embassy. Alex Carr stretches the boundaries surrounding the event, adding her own intrigue to create an intense and thrilling novel of betrayal, cover-up, and self-discovery. And while the events that take place in the novel may be fiction, Alex Carr makes them seem very possible.
An Accidental American is an intricate story that weaves together threads in unexpected ways. The writing is dark but beautiful. The ending is not one that is neatly tied up with a bow, but it is fitting just the same. Alex Carr is an author to watch for. Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at www.curledup.com. © Wendy Runyon, 2007.
Favorite Part: I most enjoyed the flashbacks to Nicole’s life with Rahim. I would not have minded getting to know Rahim a little more. He seemed a bit elusive at times.
Note about the Author: Alex Carr is a pseudonym for author Jenny Siler. Visit the author's website for more information about her and her books.