Dana Thompson has a problem. His wife of twenty years is dead, and, while in Rome on business a year later, he thinks he may have figured out a chilling and startling truth about her.
Katie Thompson, world-acclaimed broadcast news producer, apparently was a spy.
dhtreichler, in his latest book, offers up world-class intrigue mixed with fascinating detail and insight into how arms deals are cut daily in global capitals like Warsaw, Istanbul, Riyadh and Rome.
The novel delves deeply into the relationship between Dana Thompson and Katie — a thoroughly unique, long-standing love affair that spanned two decades before her life was cut short by complications arising from aggressive cancer treatments.
The well-drawn characters in the book pull the reader along nicely as Dana travels the world as a “defense contractor,” and Katie hops from one international hot spot to another in her attempt to stay on top in the race for ratings.
That is, until the diagnosis of breast cancer comes in unexpectedly. To make matters worse, it has apparently gone undetected for years, and, as a result, it has spread throughout her slim body.
Tantalizing hints of Katie’s secret vocation as a back channel courier of governmental information are revealed early, as the Thompsons encounter a mysterious Italian named Gian Carlo at dinner one night while visiting the city of Rome.
But it is not until a year after Katie’s death that Dana puts the unmistakable pieces together and finds himself trying to trace the actual circumstances of his wife’s clandestine involvement in world affairs.
Was she a patriot or a turncoat? The layers of the enigma slowly unfold as the story progresses.
Dana is suddenly thrust into peril when four men coerce him into a meeting with yet another mysterious player who wants to influence the way the U.S. does arms sales. Dana escapes harm, but not so for an unfortunate fellow American who is killed after trying to warn him off before the meeting.
The author does a great job of examining with a deft hand how Dana and Katie, with their almost constant international travels, raised their son, Brandon. After her death, the twenty-year-old son is left with anger and resentment toward his father — a widening emotional gulf that may yet prove too far to cross, for either one.
Still, it is the special insight into massive arms sales that drives the book. The author — himself a defense contractor for many years — rivets the reader with intimate inside knowledge as his main character dances adroitly with Turkish, Italian, French and even Russian weapons buyers and sellers.
Indeed, the almost matter-of-fact discussions about weapons procurement — which ultimately will result in widespread warfare and, in some countries, outright genocide — may leave the reader in possession of an uncomfortable truth that this sort of thing is happening regularly somewhere around the world.
But, back to the story.
Dana is being urged almost continuously to leave his almost obsessive devotion to Katie’s memory behind, and move on with his life. Get out more, perhaps try the dating scene.
But Dana wants no part of that advice, well-intentioned as it is. He continues his grueling travel and negotiations schedule, finally winding up back in Turkey, trying to salvage a multi-billion dollar deal that is in danger of heading south.
Then, he has two epiphanies. First is a sobering realization about the nature of warfare, military parity and the relative merits of America’s armed might.
“Change,” Dana says to himself after one particularly grueling negotiating session. “I see it. I smell it. I know it is all around me. But my company leadership continues to arm the world for combat no one can win and no one wants to fight anymore.”
The second epiphany is the fortuitous meeting of a charming and intelligent Turkish beauty named Elif.
From there, the plotline develops in ways that are both surprising and satisfying. Will Dana rediscover love, halfway round the world? Will he finally reconnect with his son in a meaningful way? And what is the role of the shadowy character Gian Carlo in the affairs of the world’s power brokers?
Bottom line: if you ever wondered what goes on in the foreign boardrooms where these huge arms agreements are hammered out, this is your best chance to become thoroughly enlightened.
Five stars to Life After. It’s a mature and deceptively subtle look at one man’s efforts to come to terms with love, loss and the art of the deal in an increasingly imperfect world.