Title: SPY ACT
Genre: Adult Espionage Thriller
Word Count: 93,000
Nathalie Qadir would use the sun to battle her biggest obstacle:
Though I grew up in London, my Palestinian blood revels in the baking Levant, where my native Arabic rolls across the sun-whipped wind. I need no air-con to maintain my cool while facing the jihadist menace of the exorbitantly well-funded New Caliphate. My searing desire to stop their western-born suicidals is more than a match for their ill-defined, false Islam. I escape across sandy Syria, using desert dust storms, bombed-out highways and the mirage effect to throw them off my scent. They gasp for air, beg for water, and covet shade; weakened by the sun, they cannot catch me.
Nathalie Qadir, stage actor and part time hair shop owner, finds herself interrogated by British intelligence about London's most recent and deadly terrorist bombing. Nathalie had befriended three neighborhood blokes, not knowing they'd been radicalized by terrorist ideologue Abn al Sadr. Eventually, Nathalie's name is cleared, but MI6 can't help noticing her gifts. She's fluent in Arabic, and a master of disguise, accents and improvisation from her years on the English stage. She's on her own, what with her family gone - an important trait for intel recruits. And she's dead keen to stop the jihadi financier behind the attack. Reluctantly, she lets the MI6 recruiters convince her: Nathalie is simply perfect for the job.
MI6 sends Nathalie from Jordan to Tajikistan and from New Jersey to the broken terrain of Syria, to stop Sadr’s oil-fueled New Caliphate and his fighters with Western passports. SPY ACT flashes back to Nathalie's past as a potential terrorist suspect and forward to her top secret missions in the present day. One point in her favor is a colleague undercover in Sadr’s organization, the Spaniard she calls El Moro – whom Nathalie rather fancies. She’ll gladly take his help to identify an MI6 mole, survive the Iraqi badlands, and take Sadr out. At the same time she’s got to figure out how much of MI6’s own brand of evil she can continue to stomach – or if it’s time to get out.
Spy Act will appeal to those who like Dame Stella Rimington’s Liz Carlyle series; the first-person suspense of Erica Wright’s Kathleen Stone; and the political critiques of spycraft in Graham Greene.
First 250 words:
Ash Shamilyah region, northern Sudan. 2008.
The prison guard outweighed me by twenty kilos, but I’d gotten in one good kick to the groin. Of course, I wasn’t any match for him once he recovered. My long abaya and fake pregnancy stomach limited my range. His extra weight came back at me like an anvil with arms. He swung me through the cell door and slammed it shut before I’d finished skidding across the gritty floor. My head came to rest against a chamber pot that teetered and sloshed with a stench like a drunk’s vomit. Through the one eye that wasn’t swollen shut, I saw I wasn’t alone. It was a man. Too much to hope that they’d have single-sex cells, I suppose.
It is at moments like these that I think most about my mother.
I’m so much like her – stubborn to the point of stupidity, for starters. But the way I chose to live out my life, well, it couldn’t be any more different from hers if I were a trapeze artist for the Cirque du Soleil.
Abdul, as I named the guy across the cell, shifted as if to stand. From my position of weakness there by the chamber pot, I knew I had to make a show of strength, and quickly. No one in the Sudan would believe a woman in prison, unveiled, was not a prostitute – or at least promiscuous. The lack of a headscarf, covering all but my heart-shaped face, would be considered an invitation to sex around here.