Todd Glasscock

Sam Keller, a corporate auditor for pharmaceutical giant Pfluger Klaxon, is used to business travel, but his next trip will be far from routine. In Dan Fesperman’s new thriller, Layover in Dubai, Sam’s trip turns nightmarish when Nanette Weaver, vice president of corporate security and investigations, enlists him to rein in colleague Charlie Hatcher while between flights in Dubai. Charlie’s overindulgences in booze and women have embarrassed the company and placed newly acquired assets in Dubai at risk.

When Sam and Charlie arrive in Dubai, Sam acts as chaperone during a night out, only to discover Charlie’s adventures seem less seedy than Weaver had conveyed . . . until their last night in town, that is, when Charlie drags Sam to the York Club, a bar and brothel. At the club, Charlie disappears with a prostitute into the building’s bowels, only to turn up murdered in one of the club’s offices within the hour.

When Sam falls under suspicion, detective Anwar Sharaf comes to his aid. Sharaf is assigned to investigate fellow officers purported to be working with Russian mobsters, including the one investigating Charlie’s murder, Lt. Hamad Assad. When Sharaf sees Sam is innocent and suspects Assad is connected to the crime, he follows Sam into a rabbit hole of murder, mobsters and madams of ill repute.

After the first body drops, Fesperman delivers standard thriller fare: crooked cops, double-crosses, chases, evasions and narrow escapes. However, he enhances and elevates the story with his exotic setting; clearly Fesperman’s travels in the Persian Gulf—he was a reporter during the first Gulf War—have played a huge role in shaping this novel. Dubai, seen through Sam’s eyes, is as alien as a sci-fi spaceport: a city set in an exotic desert landscape, where tourists visit its bustling malls and bundle up to ski on artificial snow. Layover in Dubai primarily succeeds because of its setting, an alien culture expertly presented; but Sam, an average Joe rather than spy or detective, whose only resources are his wits and Sharaf’s considerable help, also adds to its charm. This is a fast-paced thriller that’s perfect for adrenaline junkies looking for a satisfying read to keep them on their toes.

Sam Keller, a corporate auditor for pharmaceutical giant Pfluger Klaxon, is used to business travel, but his next trip will be far from routine. In Dan Fesperman’s new thriller, Layover in Dubai, Sam’s trip turns nightmarish when Nanette Weaver, vice president of corporate security and investigations, enlists him to rein in colleague Charlie Hatcher while […]

Although its title might suggest tawdry paperbacks bought from a wire rack in a dimly lit bookshop, Joshua Braff’s new novel Peep Show is actually a comic family melodrama and coming-of-age story. Set in 1970s New York amid two drastically different cultures, Hasidic Judaism and Times Square peep shows and porn theaters, the novel takes a dash of “Seinfeld” blended with a pinch of Philip Roth to tell the story of David Arbus, a teenager caught in a parental tug-of-war. The opponents: David’s mother, with a strong devotion to her conservative Hasidic faith, and David’s father, who runs a Times Square theater quickly evolving into a seamy adult venue.

When the novel opens, David lives with his mother and his sister Debra. His mother simultaneously rids herself of her ex-husband’s TV, books, photographs and the secular life they represent, and tries to convert her son to her orthodox Jewish faith, which commands strict adherence to Jewish law and rigid codes of conduct. Unable to see his mother’s side of things, David chooses to live with his father, who is struggling to keep his burlesque theater in Times Square from sinking too far into porn and peep. A budding photographer, David begins to freelance in the adult entertainment trade, not only to help his father but also to defy his mother, as only a teenaged boy could. He soon discovers he has to take care of his ailing father, as well as help with the business. As David moves between two strange worlds, he struggles to understand his family and come to terms with his parents’ separation.

Although Peep Show could be a heavy-handed family drama, Braff chooses to keep the story light, sketching several funny but poignant scenes, as when David’s father liberates Debra and her friend Sarah for a beach weekend in Atlantic City, with David’s mother in hot pursuit to prevent the girls’ corruption. The comic thrust, however, never detracts from the novel’s intimate peek into a divided family, and the lesson of compromise the family members—especially David and his mother—learn is necessary to keep all ties from dissolving.

Although its title might suggest tawdry paperbacks bought from a wire rack in a dimly lit bookshop, Joshua Braff’s new novel Peep Show is actually a comic family melodrama and coming-of-age story. Set in 1970s New York amid two drastically different cultures, Hasidic Judaism and Times Square peep shows and porn theaters, the novel takes […]

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