Layover in Dubai by Dan Fesperman

“Fesperman makes Dubai his book’s finest character. Fabulous wealth and opulence grind like tectonic plates against traditional Muslim culture, foreign workers outnumber ‘emiratis’ by nine to one, and rival clans still plot against each other. Layover in Dubai has plenty of action, but it’s Fesperman’s portrait of a truly bizarre place that will captivate readers.” —Thomas Gaughan, Booklist

The newest thriller from the author of The Amateur Spy and The Prisoner of Guantánamo (“Worthy of sharing shelf space with the novels of John le Carré and Ken Follett”—USA Today) is as dazzling as its setting.

Sam Keller has been enlisted by his V.P. for Corporate Security and Investigation to spy on another employee while they’re traveling for the company. Ordinarily careful to a fault, Sam decides to live it up. What better spot for business-class hedonism than boomtown Dubai, where resort islands materialize from open ocean, fortunes are made overnight, and skiers crisscross the snowy slope of a shopping mall.

But when Sam’s charge is murdered during a night on the town, it is only the first in a series of bewildering events that plunge him waist-deep into a lethal mix of mobsters, prostitutes, crooked cops, consuls, and corporate players.

Offering a chancy way out is Anwar Sharaf, the unlikeliest of detectives. A former pearl diver and gold smuggler with an undignified demeanor, Sharaf is sometimes as baffled as Sam by the changes to his homeland, especially as they are embodied in the behavior of his rebelliously independent—and hauntingly beautiful—daughter. But he knows where the levers of power reside. As the unlikely duo work their way toward the heart of the case, each man must confront the darkest forces threatening Dubai from within.

Here is Dan Fesperman’s most suspenseful novel yet: a stunning portrait of a city whose mysterious rhythm (“like the precision throb of an artificial heart, clicking and insistent, yet cool to the touch”) is underscored by the insistent clashing of old and new.

Dan Fesperman‘s travels as a writer have taken him to thirty countries and three war zones. Lie in the Dark won the Crime Writers’ Association of Britain’s John Creasey Memorial Dagger Award for best first crime novel, The Small Boat of Great Sorrows won their Ian Fleming Steel Dagger Award for best thriller, and The Prisoner of Guantánamo won the Dashiell Hammett Award from the International Association of Crime Writers. He lives in Baltimore.

Meet Fesperman on his author tour

From our interview with Fesperman

Q: What was your inspiration for Layover in Dubai, the story of Sam Keller, a corporate auditor visiting Dubai, who unwittingly becomes involved with a lethal mix of mobsters, prostitutes and crooked cops?

A: A few years back it seemed like every time I opened a magazine there was some new story or photo spread about all of the bizarre things being built, dredged or conjured from out of the desert in Dubai – those islands shaped like the map of the world, the underwater hotel, the ski slope in the mall. Then I started reading about the underbelly to all of that prosperity, with the huge labor camps, the endemic prostitution, the wild ex-pat lifestyles, and so on. My fascination finally reached a point that I wanted to set a book there, so of course I had to go see it for myself.

Q: You describe Dubai as “. . . the sharp glass edge of a barren land.” What about this city fascinates you?

A: The contrast of extremes, mostly. Desert meets Gulf. Explosive wealth meets sleepy culture of smugglers and pearl divers. Islam meets the wild, wild West. I’m also intrigued by the whole idea of a country that has grown so fast that all of its major institutions, from the police to the courts to the governing bureaucracy, are pretty much staffed by foreigners. It’s a little bit like a fabulously wealthy family with lots of children. At some point the parents blithely sort of throw up their hands and say, well, I guess we’ll just have to go out and hire a bunch of nannies, tutors, gardeners, cooks, shoppers and servants to take care of everything. It is a paternalism that, materially, treats its people very well, but does so with a growing level of detachment. And eventually you reach a point where you wonder if the inmates are running the asylum.

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