Sunday, September 03, 2006

Review: The Shalamar Code by Mary Louise Clifford

The Shalamar Code, written by Mary Louise Clifford, is a fast-paced and interesting book that takes place in a world very different--and very much the same--from ours. In Pakistan, fifteen-year-old Mumtaz is just like so many other teenage girls. She wears jeans, plays tennis, and occasionally sneaks out of the house to meet a boy her parents don't approve of.

When her older brother, Sikandar, gets involved with some shady characters, Mumtaz's life changes drastically. Mumtaz convinces Rashid to help her get her brother out of trouble and find out what it's all about, but when Rashid loses his job because of what he did for her and Sikandar runs away from the city to escape the trouble he's in, Mumtaz might be in over her head.

At first, Rashid and Mumtaz think it's all about drugs, which isn't particularly unusual in Pakistan, but then they find out there's a political element as well. This isn't surprising, as Mumtaz's father is head of an illegal opposition party, and they are watched constantly by the government. Remnants of Al Qaeda are making trouble with the tribal groups, and that makes everything particularly complicated. Who is involved? What's going on? Most importantly, can Mumtaz keep herself and her family safe?

This fast-paced story shows another side of life after 9/11 than what the media shows us here, on the opposite side of the world from Mumtaz and her family. While the story is interesting and suspenseful, the language of this story is simple, as are the characters. Still, it's definitely a page-turner. Characterization, as it sometimes does in action-packed stories, seems to take a backseat to moving the story along, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. There were times when, as a reader, I just wanted to know what would happen next, and details about the characters weren't particularly important.

The unusual perspective from which Mary Louise Clifford writes and the fascinating and controversial story she tells in The Shalamar Code make this book one that is worth reading, particularly for those interested in what goes on in the lives of the people who are often shown in the media only as terrorists. This is a book that shouldn't be missed.

Rating: 7.5/10

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