Jamie Frederic Metzl, Author . St. Martin's $22.95 (243p) ISBN 978-0-312-32202-1

Set in war-torn Cambodia in the 1970s, this distinctive debut spy novel tells a riveting tale of honor, political deception and moral responsibility. In 1971, CIA officer Morgan O'Reilly, 27, takes on a strange assignment: he's required to amass a contingent of undercover spies from the resourceful "ragged children" of the Phnom Penh streets. His ragtag group turns out to be surprisingly successful, and they become as much a family as a team. Young, astute orphan Sophal comes closest to O'Reilly's heart and gratefully teaches him Cambodian slang and various street smarts, but when the Americans abandon the area, O'Reilly must leave his kids behind—all except Sophal, now 18, who is spirited back to the States and enrolled in CIA field school. Eight years later, depressed, desk-bound O'Reilly is dispatched back to Cambodia by hotshot CIA officer Tom Dillon to investigate the sudden disappearance of Sophal, who has since climbed the ranks of the CIA and recently been assigned to the Thai-Cambodian border. As O'Reilly scours the refugee camps unsuccessfully, he encounters several humanitarian aid workers whose stories become bound up with his. When his search lands everyone deep within the treacherous Khmer Rouge border zone, the real reasons O'Reilly has been sent to Cambodia become harrowingly clear. Based on his personal experiences working in Cambodia, Metzl has crafted a thrilling, authentically atmospheric tale. Though the gloomy storm clouds of international politics hover incessantly, this suspenseful, tightly plotted novel makes for a luminous debut. (May)

Reviewed on: 04/26/2004
Release date: 05/01/2004
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