Thursday, July 1, 2010

The Scorpion's Bite-Aileen G. Baron

The Scorpion's Bite
Aileen G. Baron
Poisoned Pen, Aug 1 2010, $24.95
ISBN: 9781590587539

With the world at war, following her first escapades working for the OSS, its chief General Donovan (see The Torch of Tangiers) sends archaeologist Lily Sampson on assignment in Trans-Jordan. With her surveying the desert are the Director of the American School of Archeology in Jerusalem Gideon Weil and photographer Klaus Stein.

When their jeep axle breaks, Lily notices a sandaled foot sticking out of a sand dune. They find the corpse of a Bedouin. Meanwhile, another Bedouin who Gideon knows, Jalil ibn Akram arrives and takes Klaus with him to the Desert Patrol Outpost so he can get help. Lily and Gideon brush the sand off the victim’s face and find their guide Qasim ibn Achmad. Jalil returns and arrests Gideon for murdering Qasim.

As Lily seeks proof that her companion is innocent, she continues her OSS mission and soon identifies two oil pipelines running through the desert; one of them supplies the Allies while the other the Axis. Each side of the conflict wants to sabotage the enemy’s oil supply while Lily also finds out the Nazis plan to assassinate eight-year old King Faisal of Iraq.

The key to this terrific World War II Middle East espionage thriller is the deep look at local culture, in which several diverse value systems are spotlighted. The story line is fast-paced from the moment the heroes find their guide’s corpse and never slow down for a breather. Although the villain is obvious and stereotyped, readers will fully appreciate this profound look at the people of Trans-Jordan while the west is at war.

Harriet Klausner

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