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The Poet Game: A Novel by Salar Abdoh
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The Poet Game: A Novel

by Salar Abdoh

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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312209681, Paperback)

Sami Amir, the protagonist of Salar Abdoh's debut novel, The Poet Game, is hardly your run-of-the-mill spook. The son of an American mother and an unknown Iranian father, raised in a Catholic orphanage outside of Tehran, and fluent in English, he has, until recently, made his living as a translator for an operation known as "the Office." Sami's employer is an ultrasecret organization that monitors the actions of the Iranian military and intelligence services in an effort to undercut the influence of hard-line Islamic extremists in the government. To this end, it has sent Sami into the field--to New York, in fact--to thwart an act of terrorism.

Pretending to be an operative for an organization known as Section 19, our man from Tehran must infiltrate a bizarre world of Islamic militants, mad-bomber wannabes, reluctant middlemen, and one or two guys who might even be the real deal. Between the Libyans, Palestinians, Pakistanis, and odd-ball American black Moslems, it's getting hard to keep track of the players--and their differing agendas--without a scorecard. Then Sami's contact from the Office shows up and confuses matters even more. An American, a woman, a poet and part-time stripper--and possibly a double agent--Ellena is not what he was expecting. As Sami penetrates deeper into the labyrinthine world of Middle Eastern politics, he is also drawn reluctantly into a love affair with her--a relationship he characterizes as "two failed poets trying to get it right in the wrong trade."

Salar Abdoh is aiming high with The Poet Game--a spy story that is more than just a thriller, a noir novel that transcends pulp fiction. If, at times, the plot becomes overly convoluted and suffers from one double-double-cross too many, Abdoh's elegant prose and deft characterization make up for it. Sami might be a failed poet, but he is no romantic when it comes to his profession: "For what was any of this but another means of making a living--no different really than performing open-heart surgery or collecting garbage at night." And in the end, it is this sad, clear-eyed vision of himself and his world that makes Sami Amir's fate worth caring about. --Sheila Bright

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:15:21 -0400)

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