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Layover in Dubai by Dan Fesperman
Review by Verna Suit
Vintage Paperback  ISBN/ITEM#: 9780307388735
Date: 28 June 2011 List Price $12.00 Amazon US / Amazon UK

Links: Author's Website / Show Official Info /

Sam Keller and Charlie Hatcher stop in Dubai for a two-night "free-spirited layover in Dubai" while on a business trip. But on the 2nd night, Charlie is murdered. Sam is distraught, not only because he liked Charlie, but before he left his boss, at the pharmaceutical company they both worked for, secretly tasked him with keeping an eye on his colleague during the trip. He hadn't done a very good job. To add to Sam's worries, he is soon arrested for Charlie's murder.

Dubai police officer Anwar Sharaf also has a secret commission: to look into the activities of his fellow officers in connection with certain Russians. Sharaf senses something is fishy in Sam's too-quick arrest. He manages to spirit him out of police headquarters and hide him in his own home. When Sharaf himself is arrested, Sam knows he will be discovered soon and goes on the lam in Dubai. He is aided by Sharaf's network of longtime friends and also his daughter Laleh, who walks a fine line between demands for traditional modesty and pursuing a career.

At the same time, Sharaf and Sam continue to try to solve Charlie's suspicious murder and figure out what's behind it. As a company auditor, Sam is trained to look for things that don't fit. He soon figures out that he's been set up from the beginning. But why? What does his manipulative boss lady have up her sleeve and how does it concern the local Russian mafia?

Layover in Dubai is both fascinating and suspenseful. As Sharaf and Sam move around the city and its outskirts, the reader gets a ground-level look at this ultramodern city, "surreal, an artful con", that clings to the edge of the traditional Arab world. A character's comment that many of the towering, fantastical building projects owe their existence to money-laundering is intriguing, as are observations on Russian and Iranian criminal behavior.

Domestic scenes involving Sharaf's family and friends offer intimate glimpses into Arab culture, while other episodes serve as cautionary tales about Dubai prisons and construction crews. The nefarious business that is the book's underlying mystery is revealed little by little, in a narrative told partly by Sam and partly by Sharaf and providing lots of cliffhangers. This international thriller is an exciting and satisfying read, especially for anyone with an interest in the Middle East.

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