The Good Son

by Michael Gruber

The Good Son, by Michael Gruber (Holt, 2010), is one of those few and far between complex, intelligent, and insightful thrillers.  The main character, Theo Bailey, is a Special Operations soldier who decides to take a more-or-less unauthorized leave from the Army to locate his mother, Jungian psychotherapist Sonia Bailey Laghari, who’s disappeared near Kashmir.  Sonia, who’d become a practicing Muslim when she married a Pakistani, was in South Asia to convene a symposium on “Conflict Resolution on the Subcontinent: A Therapeutic Approach” with a group of fellow pacifists.  Ironically— given the title of the symposium—she and her fellow participants, who include an American billionaire, a Jesuit priest, and a Quaker couple, are kidnapped by terrorists, who may or may not have nuclear weapons at their disposal. Unless Theo can figure out what’s going on and how to foil the terrorists’ plans, his mother is doomed. At worst, the terrorists will use the nuclear devices; at best, Sonia and the rest will die by beheading.   Because you’re immediately sucked into the intricate and page-turning plot, this is a good novel for a long plane flight; but readers who are looking for a thriller with a strong philosophical subtext—the sort of novel that makes you think about families, loyalty, religion, and politics—will find just what they’re looking for in Gruber’s finest novel to date.



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7 responses to “The Good Son

  1. Nancy pearl

    And check out my daily tweeds – Nancy_Pearl I talk about a new book every day.

  2. Debra Martin

    Just finished this and am now working on Blood Harvest, after hearing Nancy’s “Under the Radar” recommendations on NPR. Wonderful read . . . and Blood Harvest is shaping up to be even better! Nancy, count me as a fan. I’ll be following your blog for more great recommendations!

  3. Mary Brogan-Sizemore


  4. Mary Brogan-Sizemore

    Dr. Grace,

    I just found you! I salute you! We share a taste for – what? The metafictional postmodern pastiche? I know. Too pretentious, “Jonathan Strange” is on my lifetime top 10 and I loved Gruber’s Jimmy Paz thrillers (I think it might be OK to call them Magic Realism thrillers because they range Southerly in partial setting?) “The Good Son,” to tell the truth, I found a bit wordy and hobbled by philosophizin’, but what a trick to pull off, anyhow. I was heartened by your apologia for that strange book. How about “Magic Thrillerism.” Love that little nudge off balance.

    • nancy pearl

      Elizabeth Bear, hearing that I too loved Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell, suggested that I read The Magicians and Mrs. Quent, which I started last night and am really enjoying a lot.

  5. Families and loyalty are important in my work, too, so that book sounds interesting; however, the Mideast is so dauntingly depressing that it seems like it can just be draining….maybe not.

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