One early morning on a Norfolk beach in Virginia, a dead body is discovered by a man taking his daily swim—Arman Bajalan, formerly an interpreter in Iraq. After narrowly surviving an assassination attempt that killed his wife and child, Arman has been given lonely sanctuary in the US as a maintenance worker at the Sea Breeze Motel. Convinced that the body is connected to his past, he knows he is still not safe. Seasoned detective Catherine Wheel and her newly minted partner have little to go on beyond a bus ticket in the dead man's pocket. It leads them to Sally Ewell, a local journalist as grief-stricken as Arman is by the Iraq War, who is investigating a corporation on the cusp of landing a multi-billion-dollar government defense contract.
A stunning novel ... Kevin Powers provides what any discerning reader desires the most — complex and flawed characters, precise use of language, succinct description and believable dialogue ... The events are unpredictable. Secondary and tertiary characters have enormous impact on the narrative ... Powers sets up the scenes in a natural and seamless fashion, concealing his intentions as well as those of his characters. The surprises not only engage the reader but lead the way to further complications ... Part thriller, part police procedural, a story of power, greed and betrayal. Filled with compassion, it also addresses gender issues and the taboos of class differences ... Vivid, seemingly tossed-off descriptions abound...but the book is also filled with gems of wisdom on interior states ... Builds to a wrenching and inevitable ending. Powers takes his time with it, ensuring that the reader is fully alongside the characters as they confront adversarial forces.
A deeply compelling story that is both angrier and larger in scope than its predecessor ... The book’s trenchant social commentary is fortified by plenty (if not, at times, an overabundance) of well-written, hard-boiled action, including a prolonged shootout and a finale in which the norms of due process are cast aside. Indeed, if the novel has a flaw, it is the author’s reliance on this stark, bloody violence to create drama where a more subtle approach might have reaped greater narrative effects ... A Line in the Sand succeeds not because of its outrage or suspense, but because of its brilliantly nuanced depiction of how veterans deal with coming home to a nation that is, in many ways, as treacherous as a war zone.
A straight-up thriller, with all the pleasures and disappointments that come with a story that’s expertly told but a tick familiar ... Pretty much everybody adheres to stereotypes ... It makes for a thrilling climax, which is, of course, what thrillers are supposed to deliver. But it also delivers a sense that amid the literary battles of the last decade, the war novel lost ... Credit Powers for trying to remind readers of the consequences of war. But it would probably require another one to truly return our attention to it.