By John R. Carpenter on June 29, 2016
The suspense gathers with each page, the narration follows the terrorists and those who might stop them during the months, weeks, then days until January 20th. It turns out the assassination is only the first step in a plan hatched in Cairo. Taking advantage of the chaos and universal mayhem after the assassination, the US government will be paralyzed and impotent, incapable of forming a response, unable to defend itself for weeks if not months. And this will coincide with a plot of a further strike using biological weapons: “What we have done is combine two very lethal toxins, Bacillus anthracis and VX. One pound of anthrax alone has the power to kill everyone is an area as large as Manhattan, while a single drop of VX the size of a pinhead leads to instant paralysis.”
The book is well-informed. The author, Claude Salhani, has traveled widely, reporting on conflicts in the Middle East and Israel. The narrative is fiction, to be sure. But it is filled with realistic information about the world where we now live. Salhani knows the topography and the cities with their neighborhoods, sights and smells, and creates a narrative that is vivid, tactile, believable. He seems to feel at home in many of the countries he describes such as Egypt and Lebanon. And the Americans he describes who work in the Middle East have often lived there for many years. He describes Chris Clayborne: “He could not get himself to leave the place. There was a certain attraction that kept him hooked to Beirut and the Middle East. It was a love-hate relationship. At times he felt as though he was living life to the fullest; yet at other times he was really tired and fed up. There was a certain joie de vivre in the Middle East that was lacking in the US.”
Sometimes Salhani puts himself inside the mind of a terrorist, as with the sheik Omar: “The Naqba, or the Catastrophe—that’s when they lost Palestine… Omar’s world was a desperate one. It was a world where tenderness and affection did not belong and where love had been unable to survive. Born into a violent society, in turbulent times, Omar belonged to a generation where understanding had been replaced by violence… Only one thing mattered now: revenge!”
A great strength of this novel might be summed up in the word “careful.” In some journalistic talk about terrorists, descriptions of them remain outside their minds and feelings. They are portrayed often as emotional, lacking the stringent discipline to plan. This novel stands out for the methodical planning that goes into a plot against America: the covering of tracks, the creation of baffling false leads; and many of the terrorists have the ability to use the most advanced sophisticated technology with the internet a resource for the latest scientific information.
The narrative is fast-paced and well- informed. The action is seen through the eyes of a wide array of characters from different countries, through their thoughts and acts. Events happen rapidly; in the first pages the reader is introduced to Lebanese and American characters in Beirut, then the scene shifts to Cairo, the thoughts and conversations of a Sheik, a terrorist operative. Also in Cairo the reader is introduced to an American journalist and long-time Middle-East hand. Many players from different countries are caught up in the action. The narrative technique is one of the most successful and original features of the book: rapid, dynamic, well-informed, self-assured, sometimes proceeding in bursts set in different parts of the globe. But at the same time the fast-moving narrative never loses sight of the overall suspense: the count-down to January 10th.
If Inauguration Day is a work of fiction– of suspense and vivid highly dramatized conflict– it is also firmly grounded on real current events, the insoluble conflicts of today’s international world.