In the early hours of a July morning two decades ago, a group of heavily-armed men infiltrates a Saudi palace, intent on assassinating a member of the royal family with the assistance of Sasha, one of the target prince’s concubines — in fact, his “favorite.”
This is the opening of Trojan Horse by David Lender (@DavidTLender), which blends genres to include elements of thriller, espionage, revenge and even some romance while exploring a modern-day terrorist plot to cripple the global oil industry.
After that exciting opening the stage for the main plot is set with the introduction of New York investment banker Daniel Youngblood, who specializes in deals involving the oil and gas industry. Daniel has suffered a tremendous loss with the death of his wife, and is drifting personally and professionally. But in the space of a few days both sides of his life are jolted.
First, Daniel is bewitched by an enigmatic and beautiful fashion photographer he meets by chance at a party and then he is hired as a key advisor for the Saudi government, a job he hopes will both renew his passion for the challenge of putting together complex deals and earn him enough money to quit banking while at the top of the profession.
None of that will matter, though, if the plans of a fanatical Muslim cleric are realized; plans in which Daniel plays a key but unwitting role. As always, no spoilers from me, but that should be enough to give potential readers a sense of the stakes of this story, which involves multiple storylines and some interesting plot twists from an author who himself spent twenty-five years as a Wall Street investment banker.
We’ll circle back in time to learn how Sasha ended up in the prince’s bedroom, a lengthy flashback sequence which I initially thought was unwieldy but ended up enjoying very much. Readers will also meet an enigmatic and murderously efficient mercenary, a character given just enough detail to make me want to see him again, hopefully in the next Sasha story, Arab Summer, which is also on my To Read List.
I’m looking forward to revisiting Sasha in that next book because I enjoyed Trojan Horse, but I did have some small issues with it. The romance between Daniel and his mystery photographer, and more pointedly their dialogue when together, worked for the plot but not as much for me. Also, the back half of the book dealing with the actual terrorist threat moved very quickly to the conclusion — perhaps a bit too quickly as it had a rushed feel.
On a personal note, I found it a bit difficult to begin liking Daniel the banker, even as he mourned his wife. Daniel’s casual mention of earning multi-million dollar fees and bonuses reminded me there is a huge divide between the haves and have-nots in life, and I know which side I’m on :). Extravagance and riches are on display throughout, with the Saudi royals living a lifestyle the rest of us can only imagine (hint: solid gold bathroom fixtures). Maybe that’s why I liked the grubby mercenary so much, especially when he shows up on Wall Street in what’s described as “a K-Mart” suit.
Slight quibbles aside, I enjoyed this story and want to find out what happens in the next book. To learn more about Mr. Lender and his books, check out his website.