Sunday, July 28, 2013

Book Review of The Anvil of the Craftsman by Dale Amidei

A doctoral candidate in Theological Studies accepts recruitment by a friend in the US State Department for an initiative to the most troublesome province in 2006 Iraq.

I both enjoyed this novel and admired the quality of the writing. At the end of every scene I felt the urge to keep reading. The story was revealed in an effortless flow. Characters were either easy to empathize with or mysteriously fascinating.

In the beginning the novel introduces Jon Anthony, a doctoral candidate in theology. His dissertation is rejected in a heart wrenching series of scenes that let me share in how bereft the character felt after having his life's work rejected. With student loan bills piling up, he ends up taking a contract position in the U.S. State Department headed by Colby, an old college friend of Anthony's. This is how Anthony ends up in Iraq, working as a cultural and religious advisor.

The setting in the early years of the Iraq War make the stakes high and the landscape dangerous. The character of Matt Kameldorn enters the story in Iraq. He's a U.S. Air Force Major who stalks Al Quaida agents and plotters, gathers intelligence, and sometimes assassinates targets. He reminded me a little of the main character in Apocalypse Now, but Kameldorn was not as troubled. He was good at what he did and worked hard to try to save the lives of the people on his side of the war. Kameldorn is presented with fascinating technical accuracy as he employs various surveillance devices and uses weapons. The street scenes in Baghdad came across as very authentic too, and the danger was palpable.

The way the novel also peered into the minds of terrorist cell leaders and the people they recruit was quite gripping. The evil manipulative nature of these leaders who cared nothing about spreading ruthless bloodshed was darkly interesting.

Later in the novel when Kameldorn and Anthony become acquainted and work together on a State Department mission, I was very impressed with the flowering of the Kameldorn character. He had initially been interesting because he was a lone wolf warrior and good at what he did. But in Anthony's company more of his personality came out. The two men hit it off a bit and develop a mutual respect for each other. The warrior and the philosopher created stimulating foils for each other and I enjoyed the chance to see a bit of humor in Kameldorn instead of just the deadly serious stuff.

The Anvil of the Craftsman is a political thriller. It's not the type of novel I usually read, but the title caught my eye. Yes, the title. I just loved that phrase and discovered that the author writes novels as well as he names them.

For a thoughtful, exciting, and well crafted read, I recommend The Anvil of the Craftsman.



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Dale Amidei website