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Book Review: 'The Convert's Song' By Sebastian Rotella


Sebastian Rotella's thrillers can seem very realistic. Maybe that has something to do with his day job. He's a reporter with ProPublica, and he's covered international security for years. Alan Cheuse says he couldn't put down Rotella's latest novel. It picks up with the main character from his last book, "Triple Crossing." The new one is called "The Convert's Song."

ALAN CHEUSE, BYLINE: After he risks life and limb to arrest the major players in a Tijuana crime family, Valentine is tired, so he puts his former job as a federal agent behind him and moves to Buenos Aires. But of course, it's not long before a childhood friend of Valentine's turns up in Argentina - a handsome, petty criminal named Raymond. Raymond's a character. He sings jazz, calls himself Ramon. He also seems to be connected with a terrorist attack on a shopping mall in a Jewish part of town. Valentine, against his better judgment, becomes a zealot for his cause, discovering Ramon's link to a cohort of bombers and killers.

Man, I read like a zealot, following Valentine as fast as I could into the thick of Argentina's criminal justice system and into the thicket of international terror. I didn't even stop to take notes, which is what I usually do as I read. From Argentina to Paris to Spain to Iraq, the story got me in a chokehold as the characters grew more and more complex and Rotella's style thickened and boiled and bubbled. Valentine - when the bullets fly and the bombs go off, this is a guy you want by your side.

SIEGEL: The book is "The Convert's Song" by Sebastian Rotella. Alan Cheuse had our review. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Alan Cheuse died on July 31, 2015. He had been in a car accident in California earlier in the month. He was 75. Listen to NPR Special Correspondent Susan Stamburg's retrospective on his life and career.
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