Michael Mewshaw, Author . Blue Hen $23.95 (280p) ISBN 978-0-399-14988-7

Mewshaw's ninth novel is a timely, stylish international thriller set in an anarchic fictional republic in Central Asia. Zack McClintock's wife died during his second tour in Vietnam, leaving him to raise their infant daughter, Adrienne, alone. He has been dogged by guilt and bad karma ever since. Now in her late 20s, Adrienne is married to a much older plant pathologist, Paul Fletcher, who gets a temporary posting at a non-governmental organization in Central Asia. Fletcher is kidnapped by Islamic fundamentalists, and the State Department refuses to give the $1-million ransom for his return. Then a second ransom note mysteriously changes the terms of the bargain: Fletcher will be returned unharmed if a feral "wolf boy," currently in the custody of an American woman in Central Asia, can be flown to the U.S. for treatment. Zack, now retired from the Marines and working as a security consultant, gives in to his daughter's plea and heads to the lawless region—teeming with Islamists, mafia and former Red Army soldiers—to negotiate with the captors himself. He's thwarted at every turn by locals who plead ignorance out of fear for their lives; he's mugged by a woman who was a lover of his son-in-law's; and he's forced to kill a mafia man who tries to steal his money belt. Zack also falls in love with Kathryn Matthews, who is sheltering the feral boy. Mewshaw plumbs both the tragic and comically absurd elements of post-Soviet Central Asian life as Zack mixes uneasily with the colorfully amoral natives. The narrative culminates in an absorbing, romantic climax as Zack, Kathryn and the wolf boy make a desperate run for freedom. (Mar.)

Reviewed on: 03/03/2003
Release date: 03/01/2003
Paperback - 280 pages - 978-0-425-19375-4
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