Bai Hsu is working undercover as Alan Broccoli, a physical education teacher at a private school in San Diego. The school is actually on Swiss soil, as the Swiss had turned their California-based embassy into a boarding school. As a result the students come from international families and the school has a very high degree of security. It doesn’t take long before the Bai’s assignment takes on multiple complexities.
Bai is a relatively new CIA agent, having joined just six years ago. I liked him and his character is well developed. However, I was surprised at some of his mistakes, most notably his total lack of suspicion about a new acquaintance. This was believable for a new agent, but then why would a relatively new agent be assigned to such an important assignment? There are a number of times in this novel where the reader must suspend a healthy dose of disbelief.
That being said, the plot is intense, filled with exciting action, which easily draws the reader into the story. I felt as if I were right there, in the thick of the action, action which never lets up. The scene shifts from San Diego to Pyongyang and the details about North Korea are well done and very believable. The plot has several unexpected twists which add to the tension, making this a very exciting novel.
There were some supporting characters who were also well developed, lending a greater sense of reality to the story. I especially liked one of the students and the school principal. These characters brought a depth to the novel which was very satisfying.
Readers who enjoy action-packed mysteries, filled with danger and suspense, are in for a real treat as they travel with Bai to North Korea. This is a mystery which is nearly impossible to put down.
Editor's note: This article was originally published at Long and Short Reviews. It has been republished with permission. Like what you read? Subscribe to the SFRB's free daily email notice so you can be up-to-date on our latest articles. Scroll up this page to the sign-up field on your right.