By Colin T. Nelson
Released by North Star Press,
Trade Paper, 218 pages, 2010
From the first page of the prologue, this is a scary novel. It is also provocative, intriguing and it raises questions that remain in the mind after the final chapter closes. The other stand-out aspect of REPRISAL is that it presents people as multi-dimensional. Not all heathens are enemies. The novel calls on readers to consider and reconsider one of the founding principles of the United States, that we judge people individually, not by dress, or skin color or religious affiliation, or by country of origin, but by demonstrated actions and words. Makes it difficult for Law Enforcement, doesn’t it?
That’s part of the premise of the novel. The author doesn’t preach, doesn’t pontificate, rather he reminds us of our heritage through the thoughts and deeds of an American-born Muslim woman, a public defendant attorney for Hennepin County in Minnesota. She’s tasked with defending a Muslim man, accused of murder, who rejects out of hand the idea of a woman attorney.
Throughout the sometimes overly-detailed work of preparing the case, Zehra Hassan must defend not only the murder charge, but the man’s anger and hatred toward her and what he views as a corruption of the teachings of the Qur’an. But as the case progresses, Zehra begins to discover the outlines of a far darker, far more dangerous terrorist plot.
The novel is generally well-written, although a more precise editorial eye would have fixed a few awkward phrases and improved clarity. The book evokes well the widely varying attitudes of people toward those with whom they have few contacts and little understanding. A fine cast of characters with differing attitudes and roles contribute to the pace and the rhythm. The plots are well-organized and satisfactorily concluded. An enjoyable thought-provoking novel of crime fiction I am pleased to recommend. I also note that the author and this writer are acquainted.