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by Gerald Seymour
Ballantine, February 2013
448 pages
ISBN: 1250018803

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

A DENIABLE DEATH, the latest thriller from Gerald Seymour, is a suspenseful and eye-opening book with an intriguing and timely premise. Roadside bombs, the infamous improvised explosive devices or I.E.D.'s, have been responsible for the deaths and maiming of thousands of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now the identity of the man who develops this technology, known simply as the Engineer, has been found through DNA evidence on an unexploded device.

The British intelligence devises a plan to kill him that will be deniable by them on all counts. No one will take credit for his death—and none of the operatives will be acknowledged if they get into trouble or fail, are captured, or cannot get back. To this end, no one uses his or her real name.

The situation is that the Engineer, Rashid, has a dying wife. The doctors in Tehran have said they can do nothing for her brain tumor, but Rashid uses his influence to get his government to send the couple to the west for advanced medical treatment. His family is quite sympathetically drawn. Most of the other characters are not fully realized, nor do they rouse our sympathies. The reader is most involved with the two men who are experts in surveillance. We are with them as they go through a period of hell, hiding in the marsh near Rashid's house with hidden microphones to pick up the conversations. Their task is to find out where he and his wife will be going for her medical treatment. Days pass in intense heat as they struggle with dwindling water supply, flies, mosquitoes, wild boars, poisonous snakes, performing bodily functions in a bag, not moving much and the constant fear of exposure. Some fascinating details are included here about how they must be careful of being smelled, as well as being seen or heard. Clearly the author has knowledge in this area. The two surveillance operatives, called Badger and Foxy, don't like each other very much, which leads to an even more difficult time for them and contributes to tragedy. The moment-by-moment description of their ordeal is the most engaging part of this book.

The author intersperses the riveting account of Badger and Foxy with what is happening to the other people involved in the plan, the crew--led by a woman--who are responsible for placing and retrieving the surveillance team, the men in charge of the operation, and the sniper himself. We also follow the difficulties of the Iranian surgeon who has tried to create a new identity for himself in Germany but who now is being coerced into taking care of a patient he has never seen.

It is hard to know whom to root for in this book. The Engineer is certainly guilty of horrid crimes, yet we do not get to know or like the other innocent characters very much. The conclusion seems to be inevitable, although the details of what happens will keep you reading and in suspense until the end.

Anne Corey is a writer, poet, teacher and botanical artist in New York's Hudson Valley.

Reviewed by Anne Corey, April 2013

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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