In The Desert Contract,Steve Kemp, an American in Saudi Arabia to conduct business, is reunited with Helen, his love interest from 10 years ago. A business phone call to a diplomat accidentally put him back in touch with her again. The diplomat turns out to be Helen's husband and she answered the phone when Kemp called. Despite the fact that she's now married to Harry, Kemp and Helen rekindle their love affair. Kemp desperately wants to run off with Helen. If his last contract pays off as he expects, he'll have enough money for the two of them to leave the country together. Things seem to be working out, until some odd requests from the client makes Kemp suspicious. As he investigates further, the situation becomes more outrageous, convoluted and dangerous.
This well-written thriller is set against the explosive Middle East unrest. There's a little romance thrown into the story, but not so much so to make it syrupy. I usually don't have much interest politics or Middle Eastern affairs, but this book was extremely interesting and a great read. Lathrop not only made it interesting, he made it real. He included details only an insider would know. Each section kept drawing me further into the story. I didn't want to put the book down and was surprised as the unexpected conclusion was revealed.
I would really have appreciated if the author had included a map of the area. While I sort of know where Saudi Arabia is, I had trouble picturing in my head it's position relative to other places in the book, like Cyprus. I guess I could look that up on the internet, but it would have been nice to have a map where relevant towns, cities, or landmarks in the story were labelled.
This is John Lathrop's first novel. He's lived in many places and serves 4 years in the U.S. Air Force. He's worked around the world including the area in which this novel is set. Without a doubt, his experience allowed him to include details that added a lot of realism to the book.
For more information about this book, visit Simon & Schuster's website.
If you liked this book, you might also enjoy Invisible Armies by Jon Evans. Here's my review. This book is also a thriller that takes place in the Middle East.