(Mystery Scene, M. Schlecht)
Western backpackers and Islamic fundamentalists meet in this literary thriller set in the mountainous tribal areas of Pakistan. Nick Sunder is an American dropout from a successful law career. While in South Asia, he falls in with a beautiful French girl, Yvette, a fellow traveler. The only problem is her on-and-off boyfriend, Simon, making for a three person relationship that tests Nick’s open-mindedness.
Conditions on the ground change quickly, however, when Yvette turns up at the morgue. Suddenly Nick’s biggest problem is no longer where to score premium hashish. After he is dragged into a fetid cell for questioning by the police, Nick decides to test his luck and make an escape from the country through the tribal areas, a place where foreigners are not exactly welcome.
In this exciting and emotional tale, author George Mastras does not portray Pakistan as a mere exotic locale. In the first half of the novel, the narrative alternates between Nick’s unenviable situation in Peshawar, and the budding romance between Aysha and Kazim, two teenagers in the mountain village of Gilkamosh. Kazim is recruited into the muhajideen, but Aysha wants to become a doctor. These worlds inevitably collide as Nick makes his escape to India.
Fidali’s Way is a smart, pulse-quickening novel with a true feel for everyday street life in South Asia. Although its politics are sometimes heavy-handed–“Were not issues like secession from India, equal rights for Muslims, and union with fellow Kashmiris across the Line of Control more crucial than keeping women locked up in their homes?”–readers will appreciate the local color while remaining riveted to their seats.