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The Amateur American    by J. Saunders Elmore order for
Amateur American
by J. Saunders Elmore
Order:  USA  Can
Three Rivers, 2009 (2009)
Softcover, e-Book

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

J. Saunders Elmore's The Amateur American is a melange of corrupt politicians, student unrest, and terrorist activity in France, where the novel's lead, twenty-nine-year-old Jeffrey Delanne has been working as a teaching assistant at Lycée Corbières.

Hoping to supplement the pittance he's paid for teaching English, Delanne accepts translation work for a shady Arab businessman, and ends up performing it during a brutal interrogation. Though he tries to end his involvement with 'the kind of businessman who ran around with bodyguards', he's dragged deeper and deeper into the mire, and must confront his own inner demons.

It's hard to like Jeffrey Delanne, who drifts through his life, giving his job the minimum it takes to get by and looking forward to drinking sessions at the Rougerie bar. After he gets involved with one of his students, Solène, Delanne meets her father, Thierry, who turns out to be more than he initially seems. Thierry, who has links to French intelligence, warns Jeffrey that interested parties might want to pin evil deeds on a foreigner, especially an American.

Within a three week period Jeffrey is 'arrested in the company of illegal aliens suspected of jihadist ties' and freed, but then becomes the chief suspect in three murders, two of the victims being federal agents. How does he survive? With a little help from his friends, especially the one who's setting him up all over again and whose parting shot is 'It could be so much worse, partner.'

Though I never really warmed to Jeffrey Delanne, curiosity about this noir spy story's tangled plot threads pulled me through to the end of The Amateur American, a good read.

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