The Bottom Line: One of the smartest terrorism thrillers in recent memory. Davies explores the psychology of extremism and delivers suspense, illumination as and a glimmer of hope.
Daniel J. Davies’ Bombmaker dares to understand the villain at the core of a riveting terrorism thriller. Former U.S. citizen Georges Subdallah – also known as Fadi – is rumored to be the world’s most-skilled bombmaker. He’s also a ghost, having been presumed dead in a suicide bombing of his own creation. When American interrogator Emma Ripley learns he’s not only alive but also in custody, she immediately understands he’s the most valuable prisoner they’ve ever had.
While Emma is given plenty of advice about how to handle Georges, she’s inclined to handle him her own way. That’s largely because she’s been unappreciated and practically invisible (“I’ve been filed away in that f*$%ing department for years, Alec. Now I’m suddenly useful?”).
But she’s determined to stop what could be America’s biggest terror threat in history. Through conversations, flashbacks and other insights, she learns that Subdallah is both fascinating and deeply layered. Having been educated in American schools, he spoke both French and English. As a young boy, he spent considerable effort “convincing people that he wasn’t black, in spite of his hair, his skin.” His fellow students called him a “commi” and threw racial barbs at him. He was educated at MIT, and radicalized well before his wife and daughter were killed in a botched CIA raid in Egypt.
And now Emma desperately needs his help. The result is a deep relationship between interrogator and terrorist that is alternately antagonistic, touching and moving. In Davies’ hands, it’s no stretch to say both characters are forever changed by the novel’s satisfying conclusion.