The Foreign Service Journal - November 2014 - page 49

one quite ordinary and one quite extraordinary, changes the lives
of several of the town’s residents forever.
This historically imagined tale, off-color at times andmoving at
others, serves up a light course of Newfoundland history and cul-
ture with tasty Sudanese, French, Austrian, British and Bostonian
side dishes.
Robert Mearkle is a Foreign Service officer currently working
(quite appropriately) in the Office of Oceans and Polar Affairs.
Overseas, he has served in Brazil, Hungary and Iraq.
The American Mission
Matthew Palmer, Putnam, 2014, $26.95/
hardcover, $10.99/Kindle, 432 pages.
Matthew Palmer’s first novel offers an
insider’s look at the world of American
diplomats stationed abroad. He has lived
the role for 20 years, so Palmer knows
the subject cold. In addition, his brother,
Daniel, and his late father, Michael, are
both accomplished thriller writers, so an ability to write crime
fiction clearly runs in the family.
Palmer’s hero, Alex Baines, works for the State Department,
but is helpless to intervene when a massacre occurs in Darfur.
Stripped of his security clearance and relegated to a desk job, he
is about to resign when his former mentor, now the U.S. ambassa-
dor to the Congo, offers him an opportunity to start over there.
Unfortunately, the job is not what it seems. A shady, U.S.-based
mining company seems to be everywhere Alex turns—even within
the walls of the embassy. When a hostage situation involving a sur-
vey team leads to escalating violence, Alex struggles to balance the
interests of the United States with the greater good of the people
of the Congo—and somehow stay alive.
Matthew Palmer is a 20-year veteran of the Foreign Service,
currently serving as political counselor in Belgrade. While on the
Secretary of State’s Policy Planning Staff, Palmer helped design
and implement the Kimberly Process for certifying African dia-
monds as “conflict-free.” That experience served as the founda-
tion for
The American Mission
To see Palmer’s Aug. 21 discussion at AFSA on writing in the
Foreign Service, go to
No Ransom
J.H. Bartlett, CreateSpace, 2013, $12.95, paperback, 178 pages.
J.H. Bartlett’s second novel opens with a bang. It is April 1980,
and Ted Brooks, the U.S. consul general in El Salvador, finds
himself on the floor of a small locked room somewhere in Latin
America. Drugged, he has no memory of
how, when or why he was kidnapped. His
last memory is of visiting an old school
friend, Alphonso, in Guatemala City.
The consul’s wife, Sue, who had been
evacuated from El Salvador along with other
embassy dependents when the security
situation deteriorated, is living in Boston
when she gets word of the kidnapping from
the State Department. She is also reminded that the official U.S.
policy on kidnappings is not to pay ransom under any circum-
The story of Ted’s incarceration unfolds both from his view-
point and from his family’s. It includes a series of flashbacks and
memories that cover the Brooks’ life together in diplomatic posts
around the world, from the VietnamWar to Central American
Joan H. Bartlett, her FSO husband, Sam, and their three chil-
dren spent 20 years posted to Paris, The Hague, Cebu, Ottawa,
San Salvador and Belfast. Her first novel was
Last Summer at the
(CreateSpace, 2011).
Broad Horizons
Matt B. Chessen, Amazon Digital
Services, Inc., 2013, $3.99, Kindle.
A debut novel,
Broad Horizons
is a
satirical, futurist, cyberpunk work in the
spirit of Neal Stephenson and William
Gibson. Sent to investigate the murder of
a senator’s daughter, Ruel Drakkar finds
himself peeling the onion of a conspiracy much deeper than he
expected. After a climactic battle, in which he’s caught in a tem-
poral rift, Drakkar and a small group of survivors must grapple
with the ethical consequences of committing genocide in order
to save the Earth’s past and future.
With pointed dialogue, realistic character development and
an engaging plot, this is a page-turner that encompasses both a
unique take on time-travel and an exploration of weighty philo-
sophical questions. Along the way, the reader is introduced to a
bevy of intriguing futuristic ideas, such as haptic tongue control
and head sensors.
FSO Matt B. Chessen is the coordinator for cyber policy in the
Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs’ Office of Regional and
Security Policy. He has served in Liberia, Iraq and Afghanistan,
and in the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs and the Office of
e-Diplomacy in Washington, D.C. The author of several screen-
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