Ministers of Fire, the debut novel from Mark Harril Saunders, peels off layers of deception in the life of Lucius Burling, an idealistic but flawed product of his nation’s intelligence establishment. In the spring of 2002, Burling is living quietly as Consul in Shanghai, his marriage and career blown off course by his work in the 1970s arming the Afghan mujahedin. The mujahedin are now Taliban and al-Qaeda, and the attacks of 9/11 threaten to reveal his misadventures in Afghanistan. Driven by his old CIA boss, MacAllister, who wants to keep the past in the past and the War on Terror moving forward, Burling is forced back into service. A Chinese dissident physicist is threatening to sell his country’s nuclear secrets, and in the leaking of his intentions to American intelligence, Burling recognizes the fingerprints of an unsanctioned covert operation. The dissident’s escape draws the violent attention of General Zu Dongren of the Chinese internal security service and his devoted lieutenant Li Xin. When MacAllister enlists Burling’s former operative Jack Lindstrom to smuggle Yong off the Mainland, Burling is drawn into a maelstrom that dramatizes a present world of global trafficking, fragile alliances, and the human need for connection above all.
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