About The Pakistan Conspiracy, A Novel of Espionage
Al Qaeda terrorists find a retired Russian KGB colonel willing to sell them a small, tactical nuclear weapon in the aftermath of Osama Bin Laden’s death in 2011. Kate Langley, a CIA officer based in Pakistan, must put her life on the line, for the second time in six months, to prevent AQ from detonating the weapon in a Western city to avenge OBL’s death.
The Pakistan Conspiracy, A Novel Of Espionage opens in the tension-fraught days right after the capture and death of Osama Bin Laden at the hands of SEAL Team Six in Abbottabad. Kate is a young, ambitious CIA agent tethered to a desk at the American Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan’s capital. Though she had little to do with the action in Abbottabad, Kate finds herself “PNG’d” by the Pakistani Foreign Ministry in the wake of OBL’s death—declared persona non grata in the euphemistic language of diplomacy, for “activities incompatible with diplomatic status,” code words for having been outed as a spy.
With Langley soon back in Washington, DC, it becomes apparent that something far worse than 9/11 is on the Al Qaeda drawing boards, now on an accelerated timetable as payback for OBL’s martyrdom.
Kate gets wind of Al Qaeda’s purchase of a highly portable tactical nuclear weapon in the former Soviet RA-211 series, a small device, by the standards of nuclear weapons, that can fit in a footlocker. But this bomb has an energy release of 17 kilotons, which is sufficient to turn to dust everything within a radius of 2.5 kilometers. Set off in the center of Manhattan, this weapon would kill millions of people, flatten skyscrapers, and set the entire island aflame.
Motivated by ambition and a desire to help her country, Kate Langley soon finds herself back in South Asia, this time not as part of the coddled staff of an American embassy, with perks, diplomatic passport, and a safety net of Marine guards, but as a NOC, or “knock,” spy-speak for a CIA agent under “non-official cover.” If caught, such an agent has no protection whatsoever—other than her wits.
From Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan, Kate Langley is soon on the trail of Yasser Khalidi Al-Greeb, who appears to be the AQ mastermind behind the acquisition of the nuclear weapon. With her sometime ally, Pakistani Brigadier Mahmood Mahmood, Kate Langley tracks the weapon from Moscow, to Tashkent, to Karachi, where Al-Greeb’s terrorist Al Qaeda plotters get the weapon aboard ship smuggled in an intermodal container headed for the Port of Long Beach.
This is a story as contemporary as tomorrow’s headlines, as frightening as 9/11, and as compelling and exciting as the very best espionage fiction today.
The British cantonment in Peshawar is a rare oasis of quiet tranquility, a neighborhood of stately homes on clean, broad avenues lined with regal evergreens and Himalayan cedars. The bungalow reserved by the Pakistani Army for General Officers overnighting from Islamabad stands behind a white fence on an anonymous cul-de-sac, blending seamlessly with its neighbors. A flat expanse of emerald lawn fronts the entrance, secured behind a wrought iron gate and a guardhouse. In the morning light of Monday, May 2, 2011, Brigadier Mahmood Mahmood left the bungalow and told his driver to head for the Mohabbat Khan Mosque in the walled Old City.
Mahmood Mahmood, 45, was something of a paradox. Though he embraced his Islamic faith more zealously than many of his military peers, he was also a throwback to the Army’s by-gone British colonial past. He wore a thin, roguish mustache, trimmed neatly every day, and combed his thick black hair with a part in the middle and then slicked back with pomade in the manner of General Zia-ul-Haq, once Pakistan’s president , under whom he had briefly served as a junior officer. For all these tiny vanities, Mahmood was trim and fit, with the posture and bearing of a man not to be trifled with. This morning he wore a Western business suit, grey pinstripes, instead of his uniform.
Though he usually enjoyed his visits to Peshawar, and especially the serenity of the cantonment, his thoughts were fixed on the pre-dawn telephone call from his chief of staff, Colonel Ehsan Akram, which had awakened him with news of the overnight catastrophe in Abbottabad. “The Americans have kidnapped and killed the Sheikh,” Akram had told him in clipped English. “They invaded our air-space a few hours ago with a task force of Navy SEALS in Black Hawks. Our air defenses failed completely.”
About the author
The Pakistan Conspiracy , A Novel Of Espionage is Francesca Salerno’s first work of fiction, though she has been an avid reader of spy novels since she snuck Ian Fleming’s James Bond paperbacks out of her father’s library as a child in Geneva. They helped her to learn English, she recalls. Francesca Salerno, the charming and stylish Swiss-born wife of a European diplomat, is an 18-year veteran of the travel industry who has worked as a travel consultant and advisor in three European capitals and Los Angeles. Before her marriage, she managed a major worldwide tour guide operation based in London. After the birth of her first child in the mid-1990s, she realized that planning vacations for her friends and incentive travel opportunities for her husband’s colleagues was more fun than work, and she quickly resumed her career. Françesca and her husband spent two years on an official posting in Tunis. Over a period of more than twenty years, she has traveled extensively in North Africa and the length and breadth of the Southern Mediterranean basin, lingering especially in her three favorite nations of Algeria, Morocco, and
Tunisia. Françesca and her family apportion their time between a gracious, bucolic home nestled in the vineyards of Napa Valley, California, and an elegant duplex apartment in the Via Cola di Rienzo in Rome. They take advantage of the standing offer of a family friend to make use of a lovely residence in Casablanca’s exquisite Triangle d’Or, and they continue also to visit frequently the grande luxe hotels of Tunis and Algiers, capitals where they have friends and colleagues of long standing. Françesca is an ardent swimmer and snorkeler who much prefers the warm Med to the chilly Pacific. Françesca has published two previous books on Amazon Kindle. The first was Your Best Vacation In North Africa and the second is titled A California Cookbook, both published in 2013.
You can write to Francesca at: FrancescaSalerno21@ yahoo.com
My 5 Star Review
This was really a very interesting book. The story was masterly crafted and well delivered, steadily paced as it unfolds on the pages; a plot that is drenched with current news, the power struggle of Al Qaeda, the death of Osama Bin Laden and the CIA's involvement.
The characters were specialized, trained and intelligent people that made this story believable and realistic. The author's research in this topic was phenomenal, nothing was left out as she described the situation, or a plane or event. Who could have thought that the world of crates could be so interesting. Each one carefully logged as they traveled the seas, each uniquely numbered and build to carry the cargo. The detail within this book really makes this an excellent read.
It's not filled with emotional outburst from the characters you sometimes get in other books; almost technical in its approach but yet it didn't put you off, just heightens the expectation. A captivating story of power and intelligence as the western and eastern mindsets collide, but yet cooperating to find the one person that threatens to change world economics and political views with his own agenda.
Each approach has a different take which creates interesting scenarios to the book and interesting conversations between the characters. At times questions are raised with no obvious answers as they sift through all the possibilities, which keep you guessing at the end result.
Terrorism is explained, the reasons for their rise and what they want to accomplish. The Pakistan culture and life intertwined to make this a great read.
With every twist in the story more possibilities rose for the CIA to ravel, screening through what seemed to be meaningless information to find this one man with a nuclear device in his possession. Bodies that piles up, huge amounts of money that is uniquely moved with a deliberate pace.
The agents had a hard time finding the culprit that chased them around the middle east, but through corporation they got the job done.
A great espionage story that will intrigue you from the start.