Smoke Over Baghdad (Dark Harvest #2), by David L. Thompson

Nine stars

First and foremost, a large thank you to David L. Thompson for providing me with a copy of this publication, which allows me to provide you with an unbiased review.

In this sequel to his stunning debut political thriller, Dark Harvest, David L. Thompson mesmerizes the reader yet again with an intricate storyline whose twists never end and well-developed characters that come to life. Three years after the end of the previous novel, the world is vastly different. The Caliphate of Ard al-Salam has taken over much of the Muslim world, encompassing many of the regional countries, save Iran and Turkey. The Caliph is the all-powerful Mustafa Suleyman, who rules with an iron fist to keep order, but also has hopes of keeping his people protected. Rooting out some of the dissident imams who speak against him, Suleyman seeks to make a public spectacle of their beheadings, only to have one slip through his fingers. When an assassin’s bullet almost takes the Caliph out, he is left to recover while his people think him dead. In the US, a fire at a secret facility has dire consequences. When people begin getting sick, the fire is determined to have been at an Ard al-Salam facility with a deadly new virus. The Americans are baffled and unaware what is going on, none more than Bradley Parsons, who is seeking to dismantle the caliphate and capture his old nemesis. Back in the Middle East, a ruthless Turkish dictator seeks to destroy Ard al-Salam as best he can and exert some regional pressure by locking the country down from any NATO involvement. Backed by an odd ally, Turkey begins flexing its muscle and serving as a puppet for a larger geo-political situation. As the world balances precariously, the Americans seek to put out any flames, only aggravating an already delicate situation. New superpowers try to find a foothold as best they can, but are stymied by the American power. With hopes of bringing down Turkey, Bradley Parsons and his wife, Liz, will have to use all their diplomatic power and connections in the international spy scene to orchestrate an end to the madness, but doing so might force them to ally with Ard al-Salam, which is perhaps more problematic than it appears. Lives will be lost and bloodshed will be high, but Caliph Mustafa Suleyman will not lose his hold on the region without a fight and seeks to bring Turkey under the auspices of the new regional superpower. All the while, another country eyes the goings-on and wonders about their own play for power. A brilliant novel that tops the intensity of the series debut. Thompson is one author who ought to get much more recognition than he does for the work he’s done on these two novels. Highly recommended to those who enjoy geo-political thrillers that mirror modern day, as well as the reader who needs something that will keep them up late into the night, wondering and guessing.

I was intrigued when David L. Thompson approached me to read the opening novel and popped up to present me with this sequel. A fellow Canadian, I was pleased to get a different perspective on the game of political chess that occurs around the world. Layering more of his terrier-centric themes with the politics of international relations (and destruction), Thompson keeps the reader guessing throughout as to how things will be handled and who has the upper hand. While the story takes on many plot lines with a handful of key characters, Bradley Parsons proves to be one of the protagonists, forced to get answers from a number of sources and yet not always in line with what his boss (POTUS) might want to hear. Working alongside and independently of his wife, Parsons is able to serve as an interesting conduit with Caliph Suleyman when the stars align, but is also trying to juggle the erratic behaviour of a crazed dictator in Turkey. Parsons’ character again contrasts nicely with the likes of Mustafa Suleyman, though the latter is also now a world leader trying to keep his massive holdings in check. There are so many stories here that weave themselves together that Thompson has no choice but to use a number of key characters, many of whom will trigger some sentiment from the reader. Thompson chooses how to craft his characters carefully, allowing them to enrich his story. In a novel that stands out from the various pieces in an over-worked terrorism theme, Thompson finds new ways to keep the reader enthralled while pushing the limits of geo-political clashes that inch towards nuclear aggression. Adding his Canadian flavour to the story, Thompson is able to compete in the genre without using too many over-used themes that others have flogged to death. With six primary chapters that work as ‘parts’ of the novel, Thompson uses ‘sub-chapters’ hook the reader into the story’s numerous plots and develop his themes effectively. I am eager to tackle the final book, which Thompson hopes will tie things up effectively. I will have to exert my patience to see how it all comes together, but am excited to see how all the characters and this politically fragile world all come to a reasonable end.

Kudos, Mr. Thompson, for asking me to read another wonderful piece. I cannot wait to see what you have left to tell and how you will express it.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: