cover image Moonlight Hotel

Moonlight Hotel

Scott Anderson, . . Doubleday, $24.95 (371pp) ISBN 978-0-385-51556-6

This fascinating satire of American imperialism and hypocrisy unfolds in the fictional Arab kingdom of Kutar, circa 1983. Anderson, a veteran foreign correspondent, paints an authentic picture of this sleepy backwater, its diplomatic corps and protagonist David Richards, a womanizing 34-year-old midlevel diplomat. For decades, remote interior tribes have sporadically clashed with the British and U.S.-supported central government—skirmishes that are ignored until pugnacious American Colonel Munn decides the insurgents represent antidemocratic forces and urges the Kutar army into the wilderness, where they're ambushed and relieved of their American weapons. The newly equipped rebels sweep forward and besiege the capitol, Laradan, where Richards has been left as the only American representative. Having completely destabilized the region, Western governments abandon the obscure, oil-poor nation. Richards waits out the bloody siege in the Moonlight Hotel with love interest Amira Chalasani, a beautiful British-raised Kutaran. He is amazed to realize the U.S. will provide a pittance for relief aid and exhortations to the Kutarans to defeat the enemies of democracy, but no military backing. To prevent a potential massacre, Richard takes an action that should wreck his career; the result is bitterly ironical. Though Anderson (Triage ) demonstrates more skill with plot and geopolitical analysis than characterization, he has produced a smart, polished, proto-Syriana page-turner. (May 16)