From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Ellie Cooper, the heroine of Brackmann's electrifying debut, is an Iraq War vet trying to forget her past while bumming around the fringes of the Beijing art world. Having been ditched by her husband, Trey, a former army interrogator now working in China as a private security consultant, Ellie has drifted into a relationship with the artist Lao Zhang, as well as into a fog of Percocet and ennui in order to escape her memories of Iraq. After Zhang disappears with a mysterious Uighur, Ellie becomes a person of interest to U.S. and Chinese authorities, and soon Ellie's evading goons and cops, getting information from Zhang's friends via a massive multiplayer online game, and flashing back to her experiences as a combat medic at an Abu Ghraib–like detention center. The China scenes are fast paced and strikingly atmospheric, and Ellie's backstory—her and Trey's return from combat is tough, sad, and endearing—is given in doses that perfectly complement the central action. Given the high-octane leadup, the ending is a bit of a letdown, but the book's exotic setting and tough heroine will definitely appeal to fans of John Burdett and Stieg Larsson. (June)
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Brackmann’s debut deftly mixes modern China, the Iraq War, and online gaming, an unusual combination that manages to work. Iraq vet Ellie Cooper is making a new life for herself in Beijing, living with friends in an unsanctioned artists’ village on the outskirts of town. A chance encounter with an Uighur (Turkish ethnics living in China) sets in motion a baffling series of events in which Ellie is pursued by American and Chinese agents. Not sure whom to trust or where to turn, Ellie finds that she is able to communicate safely using a relatively unmonitored online role-playing game. Ellie’s story of her time in Iraq and the reasons she initially came to China are revealed in chapter-long flashbacks interspersed with the main story; taken together, the two narrated strands constitute a fast-paced and engaging story as both plots are full of mystery and suspense. Although the ending falls a bit flat, the tension up to that point is sustained superbly, and the characters are full-bodied and engaging. Good reading for anyone interested in the international crime novel. --Jessica Moyer