cover image Proof of Life: Twenty Days on the Hunt for a Missing Person in the Middle East

Proof of Life: Twenty Days on the Hunt for a Missing Person in the Middle East

Daniel Levin. Algonquin, $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978-1-643750-98-9

Levin (Nothing But a Circus), a board member of the Liechtenstein Foundation for State Governance, delivers an uneven account of his efforts to find an American who’d disappeared in Syria. In 2014, a business associate asked Levin to look into the case of a young man (here identified by the alias Paul Blocher) who had set out for Aleppo with the intention of assisting a group of volunteer doctors. Fearing that his son had been kidnapped, Blocher’s father decided to keep his name out of the press and work through private channels to resolve the situation. Levin, who had been involved in a project to mediate between warring factions in Syria and identify individuals for postwar leadership roles, agreed to make use of his contacts to locate Blocher. In his meandering account of the nearly three-week search, Blocher’s plight sometimes recedes into the background, as when Levin recounts his intervention to save a cook’s job after a boorish hotel guest demanded his firing. There are ample details about other cases of kidnapped Westerners in the Middle East and vivid profiles of regional power brokers, smugglers, and funders of terrorism, but Levin’s reconstructed dialogue occasionally rings false and the discovery of Blocher’s fate is somewhat anticlimactic. This would-be thriller disappoints. (May)