When the body of Eric Castle, a weapons technician for a major American defense contractor, is found under his hotel balcony, both his employer and the Egyptian authorities declare his death a suicide. But the dead man's sister, Cate, is determined to get to the truth. Traveling to Egypt, she begins to piece together her brother's life in Cairo with the help of a young, gay Egyptian man named Omar, who yearns to escape his nation's restrictive government. Cate's quest raises more questions than she ever imagined, as she takes on not only the arms company's top brass but the Egyptian military, secret police, and a slew of American expats with their own reasons to keep the dead buried. Soon she's in over her head, and it's not clear if either she or Omar will get out alive.
A few of the early plot turns are fairly guessable for someone who’s read a lot of thrillers (not Cate apparently), but as the story accelerates toward its finale, it veers into uncharted territory, picking up momentum and emotional power, culminating in a series of rapidly escalating revelations and dramatic reversals that are gripping and genuinely moving. While The Lost Americans begins in the heady mood of a fish-out-of-water adventure, the ending is sobering, shocking and, I suspect, all too realistic.
Bollen, known for setting thrillers in alluring locales, skillfully captures Cairo’s beauty and palpable tension, and Cate and Omar’s courage in facing hard truths gives this memorable thriller extra frisson.
Cut from the same mold as Robert Stone's great political thrillers with its international intrigue, darkly atmospheric setting, and compromised characters, Bollen's novel is afloat in self-recrimination ... Bollen... takes real risks with the story, making it more haunting than the reader may be prepared for.