Allure of Deceit
The road to hell definitely is paved with good intentions in this well-written, intelligent, engrossing thriller. Some Americans with “do good” desires blunder into a culture they do not understand–rural Afghanistan–and create one hell of a mess as they attempt to offer “help” that most of the Afghans do not want, need, or, in many cases, even comprehend.
Allure of Deceit takes us into a world where many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from outside Afghanistan are competing for contracts and clients within that troubled nation. And some are throwing around money and promises with little understanding of their unintended consequences.
At the same time, some Afghans, Americans and others are taking advantage of the financial possibilities by helping NGOs find “worthy” programs or individuals to support. “The foreign charities prefer a neat, simple story,” a lawyer counsels a woman prisoner in an Afghan prison at one point in the story. The prisoner has a less-than-simple past, of course, but the NGOs want to just see her as a victim of an acid-in-the-face attack. And her lawyer wants to keep it that way as organizations compete to get her freed, get her some surgery and offer her a brand-new life.
Out in the isolated countryside, meanwhile, ancient and very delicate tribal, family and cultural balances are being disrupted, directly and indirectly, by NGO representatives and by deeply rooted beliefs now crashing against unwanted influences from outside. When some of the Americans end up missing, the searches to find them cause even more unraveling within families and lifelong friendships. And several lives soon are put in danger.
The story moves carefully at first, while complicated relationships, customs and remote locales are set up and put into conflict. Then, in the second half of the book, the action speeds up, and the tensions and dangers quickly escalate.
Allure of Deceit surges to a dramatic, unexpected conclusion that will keep echoing in readers’ minds long after they finish the book.
— Si Dunn