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Review: The Tears of Boabdil by Neil MacDonald

November 5, 2020

About the book:

Vince is an accomplished liar and undercover Special Branch agent. Truth, for him, is the story we tell. Sworn to his country, committed to his work, he takes on a new mission – masquerading as an Islamic convert to infiltrate a British Jihadi group. There, he meets the beautiful sister of the leaders and soon becomes entangled in a way he never thought possible and which threatens his grip on reality. As reality weakens with each story about Moorish Spain Vince spins to seduce Ayesha, the more the fictional world blends into his world. But which will he choose: a duty that strengthens barriers or a love that breaks them?

My thoughts:

This is a really fascinating story. Right from the outset the main character Vince/Zami tells us he is not a trustworthy narrator. He tells us part of the story he will tell is a lie. He is a British undercover special branch agent… An undercover operative who is sent in to “join” a potential jihadi group and expose them before they can set off their explosive party but this is where the story shifts. Vince who has become Zami starts to fall for Ayesha, the sister of one of the Jihadi leaders.

The story weaves between a fictional tale about Don Vincent and his love Ayesha that Zami creates to seduce the real Ayesha, with the reality of Zami and his duel focus – romancing Ayesha which is at odds with joining the Jihadi group as a convert. And then there is the reality of Vince (the operative) manipulating his handler and betraying his country. What is real? What is true? Has Vince sunk too deep into his Zami persona? Will love tempt him to betray his country?

The various narratives are deftly woven by the author. All the personas are true to their character. And it raises some interesting questions. what is Vince/Zami’s reality? Has the undercover role become a real life and real life become the undercover role? Will love triumph… but what will that mean for Vince when Ayesha discovers he has lied to her about who he is.

Who is Vince/Zami?

A clever story very well told.

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