Prusher draws on her experiences as a reporter who covered the Iraq and Afghanistan wars for her first novel, an uneven thriller set in 2003 in Iraq after the American invasion. Nabil al-Amari, the middle-class English teacher son of a Sunni father and Shiite mother, is at loose ends when American bombs damage his Baghdad school. Then Nabil becomes the translator for American journalist Samara “Sam” Katchens, for whom he also serves as travel guide, arranger of interviews, and general representative among the local population. Nabil finds his power as societal go-between enjoyable, and begins to fall in love with the spirited Sam. After Sam’s newspaper asks her to verify a fellow journalist’s explosive story claiming an American politician took bribes from Saddam Hussein, Nabil and Sam descend into the criminal, religious, and political underworld of Baghdad. A limpid plot revolving around a potpourri of actual journalistic tempests weakens Prusher’s otherwise immensely engaging portrait of Baghdad society as seen through Nabil’s eyes.
© Publishers Weekly November 2014