cover image Ministers of Fire

Ministers of Fire

Mark Harril Saunders. Ohio Univ./Swallow, $26.95 (344p) ISBN 978-0-8040-1140-2

Veteran cold warriors confront the post-9/11 world in Saunders’s impressive first novel, a complex spy thriller. After introducing Lucius Burling, a brilliant and dedicated CIA agent, in 1979 Afghanistan, the story moves forward to 2002 to find him serving as consul in Shanghai. His one-time superior, Gordon MacAllister, enlists Lucius to investigate an attempt to smuggle the dissident nuclear physicist Yong Beihong out of China. Unbeknownst to Lucius, the man helping Beihong is an old compatriot from the CIA’s Afghanistan operations, Jack Lindstrom, who left the agency after his wife disappeared into the hands of the mujahideen. As Beihong and Jack journey to freedom, the Chinese intelligence chief Gen. Zu Dongren follows closely behind. While the intricate plotting and vivid action scenes are sure to please genre fans, more general readers should also find plenty to enjoy, from Saunders’s meticulous prose to his closely observed characterizations. Agent: Neil Olson, Donadio & Olson. (May)