“The Enemy of The Good” by acclaimed novelist Matthew Palmer, is a novel based on experience: Both as a writer and a U.S. government professional at the center of country’s International relations. Palmer has tapped his quarter century-long career working for the U.S. Foreign Service for a series of diplomatic thrillers that have been singled out for both their authenticity and page-turning plots.
Currently serving as the Director for Multilateral Affairs in the State Department’s Bureau of Asian and Pacific Affairs, Palmer has previously written three other gripping diplomatic thrillers: The American Mission, Secrets of State, and The Wolf of Sarajevo.
The author’s fourth novel is not an exception: He takes readers to the isolated and fictional Central Asian country of Kyrgyzstan, nexus for a furtive struggle for regional control among the world’s major economic and political powers. There, an unlikely American is tasked with infiltrating an underground democracy movement bent on overthrowing the corrupt president for Life – an assignment that could compromise her loyalties and place her in grave danger.
One of the most interesting creations of Matthew Palmer in his latest novel is his heroine Katrina “Kate” Hollister. She doesn’t generally play by the rules, a fact that has gotten her into trouble during her State Department posting in Havana and landed her with new job duties in one of the “icky-stans.”
But a posting to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan is hardly punishment for Kate, because the Central Asian backwater is the place where she feels most at home. Her father, also in the Foreign Service, had been posted there during her teenage years, and her mother was Kyrgyz. The couple died in a suspicious car accident that Kate has always believed was engineered by Nurlan Eraliev, the dictatorial leader of the country. Now, another Hollister is U.S. Ambassador – Kate’s uncle – and he has pulled some strings to get her posted there.
The Ambassador has an ulterior motive beyond wanting to keep his only niece close at hand. With her fluency in language and her familiarity with the culture, Kate is the best candidate to try to penetrate Bold, a growing underground movement that is working to destabilize the president’s ironfisted regime. The U.S. secretly supports Boldu’s efforts, but the group has resisted making contact. Intelligence reports reveal that Kate went to the international high school with a number of Boldu members, and her uncle believes this could be the perfect entree into the group.
Kate knows the danger. A decade before, another underground movement, Azattyk, was crushed by Eraliev, and the whereabouts of one of its key operatives, her mother’s sister Zamira, remains unknown. Still, despite resistance from the CIA station and its obstructionist chief, Kate makes inroads into Boldu. Even as the U.S. negotiates a 99-year lease on a former Soviet airfield, despite vocal opposition at home from those who abhor the Kurgyz regime’s abysmal human rights record, Kate works against the clock for a solution that could forever change history. But she faces a difficult choice – follow official orders with which she does not agree or risk losing her career – and quite possibly even pay with her life.
Palmer’s new novel is realistic, intriguing, and a blueprint on how to write a great diplomatic thriller.
The author has done an excellent job of bringing a love story, a spy story-line, and an uprising plot together under one umbrella. Kate Hollister and her stubbornness to do what’s right and not necessarily what is asked to do creates episode after episode of drama in each chapter and is refreshing.
Although Kyrgyzstan is a fictional country, there is so much detail based on real-world global affairs embedded in the book, that the result is highly realistic and a general study on how foreign policies are executed by the government.
Overall, we highly recommend this book to the avid fans of political or spy novels.
Our Rating: 4.0
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