December 16, 2013
The plot twists in Khalifa’s thriller are dizzying, intricate, and entertaining. Alexander Blackwell, a former FBI agent haunted by his past, is pressed back into service when the enigmatic leader of a terrorist group takes control of a Manhattan skyscraper. But the hostage situation in New York is just the beginning, as Blackwell and the Feds must contend with the kidnapping of a powerful senator’s daughter and demands for the release of two men convicted of bombing an Egyptian resort. The negotiations with the post-Mubarak generalship and the description of the Egyptian prison are among the best set pieces of the book, displaying a wry grasp of Egyptian mores and deft pacing. The clever plot twist that turns this novel from a hostage drama to a byzantine account of staggering theft and calculated revenge is appealing.
February 25, 2014
“Khalifa keeps the story excitingly unpredictable and lays out a plot so twisted that the puzzle picture morphs as more pieces are added.”
With an international scope and surprising plot twists, A. M. Khalifa storms the thriller scene with his debut novel, Terminal Rage. The action begins with the kind of high-stakes situation usually found at the climax of a novel: twenty-five hostages holed up on the thirty-ninth floor of a Manhattan skyscraper, the threat of four random child care centers wired with explosives, and a proposal to exchange a kidnapped senator’s daughter for the release of two terrorists from an Egyptian prison. Khalifa manages to up the ante as the story progresses, though, and creates a roller coaster of a novel that whips left just when you thought it would go right.
The protagonist is former Special Agent Alexander Blackwell, who thought his hostage negotiation days with the FBI were far behind him. Enter a villain, Seth, the hostage-taking, bomb-threatening, daughter-kidnapping terrorist who refuses to speak to anyone but Blackwell. Forced to return to the job that catapulted him into a psychological break four years earlier, Blackwell must decode who this enigmatic terrorist is or face losing hundreds of lives and his own sanity to boot.
The point of view alternates between Blackwell and Seth, allowing Khalifa to build the complexity of both characters in a way that wouldn’t be possible otherwise. Seth is perhaps the more interesting of the two, exhibiting extreme behaviors that seem contradictory. For example, before he leaves California for the planned mayhem in New York, he swings by a brothel known to exploit trafficked girls and rescues them.
There is plenty of sex and violence in Terminal Rage, but it never crosses the line into being gratuitous. In fact, there is little unnecessary information in the story line, allowing it to move along quickly while keeping the plot points clear.
The drama is set against the backdrop of a decade’s worth of unrest in Egypt and the current aftermath of the fall of Mubarak. The action takes place all over the world—in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Australia—and spans from 2005 through the present day. Although the novel jumps around in time and place, headings at the beginning of each chapter designate the date and location of the events following, successfully avoiding any confusion.
Little information is given about the author, aside from the facts that he divides his time between Sydney, Los Angeles, and Rome, and speaks a number of different languages. His international travel and knowledge are clearly displayed in this novel, with concrete descriptions of settings ranging from a hellish Egyptian prison marooned in the depths of the desert to a cozy Sydney suburb with fashionable mothers sipping coffee at a trendy café while “their designer toddlers played near the fountain in the courtyard.”
Khalifa manages to pull off something that is often difficult to do in the crime-thriller genre—he keeps the novel unpredictable and lays out a plot so twisted that the puzzle picture morphs as more pieces are added. Though the lack of information about Khalifa makes him seem as enigmatic as the villain in his book, his writing speaks for itself. The mixture of clear, concise action, out-of-the-box characters, global settings, and didn’t-see-that-coming twists creates a craving for more when the last page is turned.
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Amazon Reader Reviews
October 3, 2013
Finally recovering from the mental toll of his disastrous last case, Alex Blackwell, once the FBI’s top hostage negotiator, is pulled back into action at the request of a man posing as an Arab prince who has taken over a skyscraper in midtown Manhattan. Besides the hostages in the building, the man threatens to kill children at daycare centers — knowing this is the one thing he could say that will convince Blackwell to forsake his self-imposed exile.
So begins Terminal Rage by A.M. Khalifa (@amkwriter), a layered thrill ride of a novel that moves seamlessly from inside a nerve-wracking hostage situation to far-flung locations across the United States and the world including Italy, Egypt, England and Australia. Who the mysterious man is and what his motivations are will be revealed in due time, as the reader and Alex uncover and fit together the pieces of large and complicated puzzle.
I’ve spent some time thinking about how to write this review, because I don’t want to reveal too much of the plot and spoil the fun for future readers. Terminal Rage is a multi-layered story that is topical and yet also timeless, with a real emotional edge underpinning it. The well-conceived plot twists along the way had me nodding my head in admiration of the author’s imagination and storytelling ability, which I would compare favorably to the best of Robert Ludlum, Frederick Forsyth or Ken Follett.
So writing this review is a bit like encouraging someone who hasn’t seen the movie The Sixth Sense to watch it without telling them Bruce Willis is dead; you want people to know how great it is but you don’t want to rob them of those “oh, wow” moments. For me as a reader, those times when well-crafted pieces of a plot puzzle finally fit together and the logic of the author’s intentions become clear are very satisfying.
I highly recommend this well-crafted novel, and look forward to more from Mr. Khalifa. Read more…
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