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Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Good Son by Michael Gruber, 2010, * * *

Bestseller Gruber (Forgery of Venus) explores America's political involvement in South Asia and the bloody religious and ethnic fanaticism associated with the region in his seventh novel. Sonia Laghari, a Pakistani-American writer and psychologist, sets up a conference on peace in Kashmir, 'the most terrorist-infested place on earth,' only to have her and her small group of pacifists abducted and held captive by terrorists, who may or may not be manufacturing nuclear weapons. All but doomed to a public beheading, Sonia uses her familiarity with Islamic doctrine as well as her knowledge of Jungian psychology to get into the heads of the captors. An additional story thread deals with her son, Theo, who is planning to rescue his mother. Once a member of the Afghan forces that fought the Russians, he is now doing black ops for the United. States Army. Although very competent in what he does, Theo seems less realistic than other characters in the story.  The story is well told, but still lacks sympathetic characters. In fact, the overall story at times appear convoluted, almost as if Gruber isn't sure what should come next and the bombshells at the end strain credulity. However, the characters and labyrinthine plot line, not to mention the absorbing history of modern jihadism and the U.S. war on terrorism, make for an interesting thriller.

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