The Swimmer * marks the debut of Swedish Joakim Zander, an espionage thriller that draws enthusiastic comparison with John Le Carré, Graham Greene and vintage Robert Ludlum, in which a deep-cover CIA agent races across Europe to save the daughter he never knew.
Klara Walldeen, an EU Parliament aide in Brussels, is quickly learning how to navigate the treacherous currents of international politics and dangerous desires. Warned by a series of anonymous emails, Swedish academic Mahmoud Shammosh suspects that it is related to his probing research into The Privatization of War (think Blackwater). George Loow, an ethically challenged lobbyist is increasingly uneasy with the requests of his shadowy client. Meanwhile, in Virginia, an old spy (a one-time UM swimmer and an Olympic hopeful) hides from his past while haunted by what happened in Damascus three decades ago.
Their stories converge one stormy Christmas Eve in the Swedish archipelago, when Klara is hunted down for something she should not have seen, and the old spy is the only one who can save her.
"Skillfully moving between the past and the present, from Sweden to Syria to Washington and back again, Zander weaves an increasingly tight web of intrigue and suspense... Beyond the blood-pumping chase sequences and requisite shootouts, there is real humanity here. A compulsively readable page-turner with unexpected heart."
Girl Underwater *, a debut novel by Claire Kells demonstrates that survival is not just physical, but also mental and emotional.
The plane that carries Avery Delacorte, a competitive college swimmer home to Boston for Thanksgiving break crashes in a mountain lake in the Colorado Rockies. She survives along with teammate Colin Shea and three little boys. Faced with sub-zero temperatures, injuries and the dangers of the wilderness, Avery and Colin must rely on each other in ways they never could have imagined.
Her beleaguered recovery comes after their rescue. Avery must come to terms with the trauma in order to reconnect with the world around her. She must dig deep to reclaim her love of swimming and to recognize her heart's true desire.
Claire Kells, (M.D. The University of California) currently in residency in the Bay Area, lends realism to the story with her technical knowledge, and with "a spare, sure hand". "(M)emorable and eminently readable."
* = starred review