Christopher Rice’s fifth novel, THE MOONLIT EARTH, is a taut thriller populated with strong characters and offering a well thought-out plot. After their father walked out on their young family, Megan and Cameron Reynolds decided that they would take care of each other. Cameron is now a flight attendant on a cushy airline and spends his free time in the gay world of West Hollywood. Megan worked for a nonprofit outfit until she was fired for doing something her superiors couldn’t forgive. She moved back home to live with her mother in Cathedral Beach, where she and her brother grew up.
Their cousin Lucas, a millionaire, supports the family and is very generous to them. They in turn have become very dependent on him and lionize him. When Megan talks to him about her job, he offers her a dream career and is ready to finance it. She is thrilled and wants to share her good fortune with her brother. But, at the moment, he is on a layover in Hong Kong.
Suddenly, and without any warning, Cameron’s face is splashed all over international news outlets calling him a terrorist. While in his hotel, he is visited by Mahed, a man associated with a Saudi family, whose job it is to protect the youngest son who is in love with Cameron. Mahed finds a bomb planted in Cameron’s hotel room. He throws it down the laundry chute and pulls Cameron out the front door of the hotel just as it’s exploding, killing more than 60 people. The media and other witnesses are ready to swear that Cameron is a terrorist.
When Cameron disappears, Megan goes to Hong Kong to find him. She has no doubt that he is not responsible in any way for the attack. Has he gone underground on his own, or are people secretly helping him? Or, worse, are people keeping him against his will? What does the Saudi family have to do with his disappearance? Whose side is Mahed really on?
Despite questioning by the FBI and other law enforcement agencies tasked with taking down terrorists, Megan manages to get a lead on her missing brother. She hops a plane to Asia and begins to follow his footsteps in an attempt to save him. But along the way, she uncovers secrets about her family and a past that turns her perspective of life upside down. She is amazed when Lucas shows up in Hong Kong and is rattled by the tragedies he triggers off. Who can she trust, if anyone? What does Lucas know about her brother’s whereabouts? Exactly what does he know about the bomb?
The body count in THE MOONLIT EARTH slowly rises as fear grips players and nations. In this time of random terror and war, Christopher Rice has given readers a timely and tension-filled book. His characters are finely honed, and the dialogue is believable. Fans and new readers are sure to be seduced by the raw emotions rampant here. In an interview, Rice jokes, “This book is as close as I’ll ever get to Robert Ludlum.”
Reviewed by Barbara Lipkien Gershenbaum on January 7, 2011