John Harper works as an operative for a black-ops operation. It’s 1998 and he’s staying in a hut in Indonesia in fear of his life. He’s made an error of judgment which most likely has made him a liability to his employer and unfortunately, John is all too familiar with how his employer deals with failures. John has plenty of time to remember his disastrous 1965 Indonesian tour. He obviously has serious regrets about some of his past actions and struggles with his memories. When he meets Rita, another damaged soul, he shares some of his past with her but she knows he hasn’t told her everything.
The book bounces back and forth between 1998 and 1965 and when John was a child. John is the son of an Indonesian soldier who the Japanese beheaded and an alcoholic Dutch woman. The happiest time of his life are the years spent with Poppa and Nina and his little half-brother Bud. The author masterfully fleshes out John’s character and shows how his childhood has led him to where he is today. His path has been a long, hard one and I longed for John to find redemption and love. I literally had trouble breathing during the last few pages of this book.
I picked this book based on the author alone since I thought “Apple Tree Yard” was an amazing book. I hardly glanced at what the book was about. When I started to read it, I thought I might have made a mistake as it obviously was an espionage book, much like Graham Greene would write, and I’m not particularly fond of that type of book. But the author’s characterization makes her new book an excellent read and one that I highly recommend. It’s thrilling, it’s heart wrenching and it’s powerful.