The Assyrian Girl by Thomas W. Devine is a terrorist thriller following Matt Couper, a security contractor who’s stationed in Iraq in 2003. There he saves the life of Tara Nasrim, an Assyrian teenager, a memory which haunts him years later. When she shows up in New Zealand five years later, their lives become as complicated as war-torn Iraq – thrust into a struggle with a Islamic terrorism. It’s a book about the power of faith versus the seductive pull for many of fundamentalist dogma, and how to maintain love in this increasingly complicated and dangerous world.
The two biggest things going for this novel are the depth of its research and the sensitivity to its topic. As a non-Muslim from New Zealand, Thomas Devine writes credibly about Muslim culture, without ever devolving in caricatures or stereotypes. On the contrary, the depiction of the Muslim faith is multi-layered and respectful, while still fully acknowledging its struggle with extremism. The epigraph to the novel exemplifies Devine’s measured attitude towards his subject: “In every religion there exists a deviant faction that raises the flag of religion to kill in its name.”
As a pure thriller, the novel works well, while veering into elements of romance and even literary fiction. It’s a quick read, while still being thorough. If anything, the novel may be well-researched to a fault, providing extraneous detail that slows down the pace a bit – including an overuse of brand names as a descriptor. The prose itself is clean and without error, though it’s shame that the cover doesn’t exactly reflect the quality of the book inside. Overall, The Assyrian Girl is a solid addition to the terrorist thriller genre, and shows Thomas W. Devine to be an assured, accomplished and engaging author.