In the fall of 2009, a Baptist preacher in North Carolina announced that his congregation would sponsor a book burning. His "holy fire" would consume copies of the Bible that were not the King James version. Radical fundamentalist? Early in The Caliphate, author Andre LeGallo has one of his characters murder his daughter, "…in the name of Allah." What kind of religion is that? Are these two incidents believable? Former director of the CIA, Peter Goss says LeGallo's tale is "–too believable to ignore."
Steve Church is en route to Morocco on business. He represents a company that specializes in counter-terrorism. Steve's father is a retired CIA man. (Do they ever really retire?) Steve's itinerary includes a stop in France to see an old friend of his father who just happens to be stepping on the toes of an influential radical fundamentalist. Only this guy isn't burning books. We meet all the essential characters in the first few chapters including a romantic interest for our hero. Even though some of the situations and plot devices are a bit expected, they're all still so, well, believable. Credit LeGallo's skill at weaving fiction with current events so convincingly that it's hard to tell if you're reading a novel or a feature story in Esquire.
LeGallo's experience and education lend an air of authority as well as a convincing authenticity to his writing. After thirty years with the CIA and world travel, he's been there and done that. He also advises readers that the "Islamic content has been double-checked by others with better academic credentials." The characters he has created and the situations in which they find themselves serve as a warning to the world that any religion can be poisonous. During the Viet Nam era, our military had difficulty discerning the enemy. Today, it is the same in the Middle East. Imagine the frustration of a foreign force coming to the United States and trying to distinguish a friendly Methodist from one who was willing to detonate and die with a bomb inside Walmart? Or in Northern Ireland, does a member of the IRA appear any differently than a non-combatant? How do we hope to survive with a "live and let live" credo, when there are dangerous people out there who will kill you simply because you aren't a member of their tribe?
The Caliphate is a fast moving adventure of one civilian's journey through a mine-filled world where zealots on either side of the issues act and react quickly, often making decisions in the blink of an eye with barely a tip of the iceberg visible. The Caliphate serves as a compelling warning to the real world and challenges us with a question. How can the events in our world today conclude with a "Hollywood ending"?
Would I buy The Caliphate? Yes. It is the first book I've read involving the Middle East and Muslims since 9/11. I'm glad I started with it, and I recommend it highly.