cover image Checkpoint


Jean-Christophe Rufin, trans. from the French by Alison Anderson. Europa (PRH, dist.), $18 trade paper (304p) ISBN 978-160-945-372-5

Set in Bosnia in 1995, at the height of the country’s civil war, this taut thriller is distinguished by its literary polish and moral heft. Its plot follows the efforts of five French nationals to deliver humanitarian aid to the war-torn country in a two-truck convoy: Maud and Lionel have worked together previously for the relief organization La Tête d’Or; Marc and Alex are former soldiers who served in the country on the peacekeeping force; Vauthier is an unknown quantity whose behavior increasingly arouses Marc and Alex’s suspicions. The deeper they penetrate into the country, the more hazardous the terrain and the more precarious the military checkpoints, which serve as apt symbols for the boundaries beyond which the relief mission transforms into something vastly different and more dangerous than originally planned. Rufin’s (The Red Collar) characters are nuanced and believable, especially after the revelation of several deceptions breaks the team apart and forces members to choose alliances that mirror the much larger military conflict in which they’re immersed. After a placid, reflective start, the novel’s events snowball with a relentlessness that will keep readers turning pages until the surprise-packed ending. (May)