Thursday, March 22, 2012

BOOK REVIEW: The Lion of Babylon by Davis Bunn

This story is about what happens after Marc Royce, a former State Department agent involved in covert operations, is called back into service in Baghdad to find his best friend Alex Baird, a CIA agent who has disappeared. In addition to his friend, there are two women missing, Claire Reeves, a nurse, and Hannah Brimsley, a volunteer at a church in the Green Zone. Farouk El-waziri, the son of a prominent Iraqi family who knew the three Americans is also missing.

Marc had been forced out of his job as a State Department operative because he had insisted on being with his wife when she was terminally ill. The story begins three years after her death and Marc is working in Baltimore as a forensic accountant when his former boss, Ambassador Walton comes to urge him back into service.

This is also the story of Sameh el-Jacobi, an Iraqi lawyer who is a member of the Syrian Christian Church in Baghdad. While helping influential people find family members who had been kidnapped, Sameh crosses paths with and joins forces with Marc early on, but the reader continues to be treated to viewpoints from both the East and the West.

Marc and Sameh, along with the help of Major Lahm, once highly respected in the police who is now serving as a prison guard, they find and free a number children who had been kidnapped.

Jaffar, the Grand Imam's son, hires Sameh to help him find Farouk El-waziri, the son of a prominent Iraqi who went missing along with the Americans.

Jordan Boswell, deputy to the United States ambassador who doesn't believe Alex and the two women were kidnaped, is upset by Marc's participation in freeing the kidnapped children and wants to send him home. However, Marc's connections are stronger now and he continues to search for the missing Americans.

The ambassador offers Sameh four green cards for him and his family to go to the United States, with a deadline for deciding. Sameh is tempted by the offer to move to the United States. Primarily for his family. His wife, Miriam, his niece, Leyla, who lives with him and his wife and works in his law office,  and Leyla's daughter, eleven year old Bisan, who is wise beyond her years.

Although the book is fiction, I had a feeling that the author had been to post-Saddam Iraq or had done a great deal or research about the setting. What he says about the people and the place rings true. I liked the inside look at what it is like to live and work in Baghdad after the fall of Hussein. I also learned more about Iraq and its history. I was surprised to learn about the Christians in Iraq.

This was the first book by Davis Bunn that I've read, but I now understand why he won three Christy awards and is a bestselling author of more than six million copies. See my review of Book of Dreams: A Novel, published after Lion of Babylon.

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