Penny Kessler is an intern at the US Embassy in Turkey. A bomb goes off there during the Fourth of July celebrations, killing over 250 people. Penny is injured and wakes up in hospital. A photo of her holding a US flag has become a symbol of the atrocity to the world’s media and everyone wants to know about her.
Penny is also of interest to her political masters and the Turkish authorities who think she has important information about the bombers, but she is bemused. She doesn’t think she knows anything and has to escape those who threaten her and try to work out why they want her.
I’m not normally a big action thriller fan, but I got caught up in the drama here. It was fun to see Penny put into a situation you think she can’t possibly escape and then see how she does. I found Penny’s mixture of intelligence and naivety convincing. The plot relies on quite few things falling into place for her but I guess that goes with the genre.
The story also takes in many locations and elements of Turkish life which were interesting to read about. The author explains the politics of the region with enough detail to make the story go but without overwhelming the general reader.
She highlights the competing interests and the moral ambiguity of the different factions, even those who supposedly represent the same institution. I thought the portrayal of Christina Ekdahl was particularly interesting. She is a senior CIA figure who has many admirable qualities but in getting to where she is has suffered losses and made compromises which have shaped her.
I’m always wary when publishers make big promises for first novels. I think comparing this one to John le Carré is pushing it a bit but it’s an entertaining, pacy thriller.
I received a copy of Liar’s Candle from the publisher via Netgalley.
View Liar’s Candle on Goodreads
Enjoyed this? For a very different spy novel, take a look at my review of London Rules by Mick Herron