The plot twists in Khalifa's thriller are dizzying, intricate, and entertaining, though the author's characters are often so broadly drawn they resemble genre caricatures. Alexander Blackwell, a former FBI agent haunted by his past, is pressed back into service when the enigmatic leader of a terrorist group takes control of a Manhattan skyscraper. But the hostage situation in New York is just the beginning, as Blackwell and the Feds must contend with the kidnapping of a powerful senator's daughter and demands for the release of two men convicted of bombing an Egyptian resort. The negotiations with the post-Mubarak generalship and the description of the Egyptian prison are among the best set pieces of the book, displaying a wry grasp of Egyptian mores and deft pacing. But Khalifa's prose too often falls prey to cliché and stock characterization, and the terrorists' getaway is wildly unlikely. Still, the clever plot twist that turns this sprawling novel from a hostage drama to a byzantine account of staggering theft and calculated revenge is appealing. Blackwell's pursuit of the villain and quest to understand his motives plods occasionally, though the loose ends are tied up with a more assured hand.