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Moonlight Hotel    by Scott Anderson Amazon.com order for
Moonlight Hotel
by Scott Anderson
Order:  USA  Can
Doubleday, 2006 (2006)
Hardcover, e-Book

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* * *   Reviewed by Sally Selvadurai

This novel is poignant, witty, cuts to the quick and unfortunately rings true about the integrity of US involvement in overseas military operations. David Richards is a youngish (mid-thirties), debonair career diplomat nearing the end of his term in the quiet, fictional Middle Eastern kingdom of Kutar. Kutar has a long history of tribal struggles in its northern region, but this has never really impinged upon the lives of the majority of Kutarans, who live in a small, fertile band along the coast.

However, the situation changes suddenly as a new rebellious force takes control of the heights above Kutar's capital of Laradan. The US army, under the control of a pompous little Texan, Colonel Munn, is directly responsible for the debacle that leads to the rebels gaining a foothold - as well as the entire US military ordinance - above the city.

Laradan is effectively under siege; the rebels give all diplomats the opportunity to leave. David Richards, along with several other diplomats and foreigners, decides to stay with the hope of acting as a go-between, a representative of the United States government, someone who might make a difference. He is disillusioned by prior US attempts to stop the rebels according to Colonel Munn, 'in analyzing the non-positive success ratios we got going around here, it appears that errors in judgement may have occurred' and hopes that he can help reverse the plight of the Kutarans. Many of the remaining foreigners end up living in the once stately Moonlight Hotel.

Anderson's knowledge of the diplomatic hierarchies is riveting, his descriptions of the bombed-out capital of Kutar heartbreaking, the blast scenes realistic, and people's gradual acceptance that siege is normal gutwrenching. David Richard's sense of morality is at loggerheads with his duty to be the spokesperson for a government he no longer trusts and he finds himself in constant, internal turmoil - even the resolution of the conflict is at odds with his own sense of ethics.

This was indeed a great read and Anderson's experience as a war reporter makes it believable. The characters depicted in the novel ring entirely true, from our pompous (and incompetent) Colonel Munn to the wonderful Contessa and the seductive and sympathetic Amira. Moonlight Hotel is a must read, but be prepared to feel anger, disgust, frustration and horror at the fictional treatment of smaller states that no longer hold a strategic place in Western global plans.

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