Andrew Johnston
September 17, 2004 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Though the early chapters of The Warlord’s Son are rife with clichés about tough foreign correspondents, Baltimore Sun reporter Fesperman soon recovers to crank out a first-rate geopolitical yarn. Shortly after 9/11, journalist Stanford J. Kelly (known to all as Skelly) persuades his bosses to pull him from a boring suburban beat so he can report on the hunt for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan. His translator and guide is Najeeb, a Pakistani graduate of an American university who’s also an unwilling agent of his country’s intelligence service. The pair become ensnared in tribal rivalries and family feuds, further complicated by the intervention of U.S. forces (governmental and otherwise). Fesperman combines his strong eye for detail with bleak film-noir cynicism, managing to make plot twists that could have felt contrived seem depressingly believable.

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