The Bottom Line: A character-rich terrorism thriller that awes with its sophisticated explorations of extremism, liberal values, foreign policy and martyrdom. Recommended for fans of Alex Berenson.
The Brussels Connection opens as Ibrahim, an Islamic State bomber of Moroccan heritage, rides the metro. He’s carrying ten liters of hydrogen peroxide in his backpack intended as part of the cocktail for an airport bombing. While on the train, he reflects on how much his appearance has changed as ideology has evolved, and how much his visual identity has alienated him in the eyes of the locals. In the process, he catches the attention of a pretty brunette with a silver flight case. But in a telling insight, he interprets her smile as condescending. “Attention-bereft European girls” hate rejection, he concludes, deciding that in addition to the airport, he’ll hit the metro as well so as to “vaporise the likes of this Belgian bitch.”
So begins author Terence Hamilton’s simmering terrorism thriller, in which we witness the execution of a sadistic plot that could upend European security and its potential implications on everyday citizens.
Throughout, Hamilton writes convincingly from the extremist’s point of view. Elsewhere, one of the characters who is most deeply explored is Tom, a worker bee gearing up for a big corporate presentation. In the book’s early going, we ride along with the mundane details of Tom’s presentation deck, tense work emails, his pre-game pints with a close friend and his evolution as a project manager. The patience with which Hamilton details the daily ebb and flow of Tom’s life is astonishing. As time goes on, however, Hamilton reveals Tom’s views on detailed foreign policy in Islamic countries and the fallacy of extremism. The payoff, when it comes, is huge. To say more would be to spoil an extremely powerful plot twist, but readers are in for a treat as Tom is thrust into a way of life he never thought possible.
Hamilton, who is also a Royal Air Force veteran, has created a truly sophisticated novel that attempts to understand what drives terrorism and its horrific outcomes. Among those writing in the terrorism thriller sphere, Hamilton’s character development rivals Alex Berenson’s best work. Readers looking for straightforward, no-nonsense action should look elsewhere. Those interested in a story that is both thought-provoking and gripping should move the book to the top of their reading queue.