Title: The Next Target
Author: Nikki Arana
Publisher: David C. Cook
Published: June 1, 2012
Austia Donatelli is young, recently widowed and lives her life to help the Muslim community she lives in. She runs a career center to help them find jobs and she teaches a ESL ( English as a second language) class for women. When someone shows interest Austia even shares her faith with the student, but when her student and new Christian ends up murdered, Austia knows it’s an honor killing. A killing by family to regain their family honor and Austia is scared they’re going to come for her next.
Zaki ben Hassan’s mission is to watch Austia and report what he finds. He doesn’t understand his boss’s interest in Austia and her center and he wants to find out. He’s determined to not feel after losing everyone he’s ever loved from various crimes. Austia draws him despite his efforts to remain neutral and his urge to protect her threatens to destroy everything he’s ever worked for.
As the jihadists get closer to Austia, she begins to fight for her life and the lives around her. She has no idea who to trust or where to turn. Zaki is trying to finish his mission but he can’t let Austia fight alone, even if it means destroying years of progress. In the fight of good against evil, no one is safe and no one is able to win without God on their side.
Will Austia be able to survive a determined jihadists leader’s long reach or will she just be another innocent casualty in this ongoing fight for our freedom? Will Zaki be able to protect Austia without putting his life on the line or will he have to choose between the woman he could love and the cause he needs to be a part of? Will Austia give up her calling of helping Muslims or will she be even more determined to help? Will Zaki be able to forgive and move on from all he’s seen and turn back to God or will he live his life anger and bitter over his circumstances?
This book is a little hard to form an opinion of. I loved the concept and all that I learned about Muslims and their customs and beliefs, but I don’t know if the suspense was executed the right way. I really liked the effort the author put in to show the difference between moderate and extremist Muslims and she gave me a perspective that I’ve never had before. Usually I read books only involving jihadist Muslims so it was nice to see the moderates get some of the attention and I enjoyed learning the differences between the two.
I can’t put my finger on it but something about this book didn’t sit right with me. It could be the suspense, I find it a little unbelievable that a powerful jihadist leader would be intimidated by one woman running a career center and occasionally preaching to interested women. It could also be that throughout the entire book, including the end, I couldn’t really form an opinion of Zaki. I can’t decide if I like him or hate him or whether or not he converted to Christianity. I feel like the author didn’t put enough thought into that major character of her story.
There is romance in this book, sort of. It’s a little hard to say that considering that Austia didn’t trust and was actually scared of Zaki for most of the book and Zaki didn’t really get to spend much time around Austia or really talk to her before he feels that he’s in love. That brought a little disappointment for me, but it’s always difficult to meld a romance into a suspense well and I feel like this author needs a little practice in that.
The suspense was intense yet a little unrealistic, at least to someone who doesn’t have much knowledge of Muslims. I felt that the suspense was a little far fetched yet, somehow realistic too. I guess I could see this happening just not this extensively. The amount of manpower this man put on watching one woman was the thing that seemed unrealistic and extreme. You would think this woman was preaching to every man, woman, and child that walked into that place. I did like the action scenes and bravery that were displayed in the suspense, though, and I feel like the author nailed making me afraid along with our heroine. That was a huge plus for me.
Before this book, I’ve never read anything by this author and though I wasn’t completely happy with what I got from her, I do intend to read more from her. I enjoyed her knowledge of Muslims and their customs and I enjoyed how she was able to get my heart pumping over the suspense. Though, I feel she needs to improve on her realism for the suspense and her romances, I feel like she is a good author and if she improves on those things can stand out and possibly become a best seller. I’m going to keep my eye on this author and I recommend you do the same.
Overall, this book is great if you want some knowledge on the Muslim religion and if you want a heart pounding suspense but not so great if you want a realistic romantic suspense that makes perfect sense. Also, this isn’t the book for you if you want a light quick read. This book is dark and gritty and it won’t leave you feeling happy and hopeful at the end. I recommend this book to those that prefer the more dark and gritty suspense books or those that like books involving Muslims and Christians. I don’t recommend this book for anyone younger than an adult or a mature teenager. I give this book a three out of five.
*I received a complimentary ebook copy of this book from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for this review. All opinions expressed are my own.*