Almost Home by Pam Jenoff is a novel of international intrigue, significant struggle, and humiliating heartbreak. Jordan Weiss is a Foreign Service Officer working in Washington, D.C., who receives a letter from her college friend Sarah asking her to return to London as Sarah struggles with Lou Gehrig's Disease (ALS). Once in London, a place Jordan never expected to see again after her tragic last semester, she takes a job as a investigative diplomat working to uncover financial connections between companies and the Albanian mob.
"Chris pulls out my chair and I sit down awkwardly, conscious of his presence, the way he hovers a second too long behind me as though afraid I will flee." (Page 64)
Jenoff really knows how to set the mood. Almost Home is full of dark imagery, fast-paced chases, and tension as thick as butter. Readers will be kept guessing as to who is on the wrong side of the equation. Jordan is likable and draws readers into the story, sweeping readers into her grief over the decades ago loss of her college sweetheart, Jared, and the mystery surrounding his death. There is tension between Jared and Jordan when they first meet as part of a rowing team, but eventually their mutual love of the river and the team gives way to their own passions.
"Trafalgar Square on a Monday morning is a swarming mass of activity. Cars and buses move along the roadway in fits and starts, jamming up at the traffic lights, filling the air with thick exhaust. Swarms of commuters, invisible beneath a sea of black umbrellas, jostle as they make their way from the buses to the city, from Charing Cross Tube station to Whitehall." (Page 131)
Tension and suspense are dominant atmospheres in Almost Home, but the novel is more than just a political thriller, it deals with deep grief and healing. There also are lighter moments between Jordan and Sarah that illustrate a part of Jordan that has been dormant since the tragic loss of Jared. The dynamic between the two is strong and full of sisterly love, which can transcend any situation.
Jenoff's experience as a diplomat is clearly present in the novel as Jordan deals with bureaucracy and cloak-and-dagger tactics. There are some points in the novel where Jordan appears to be out of her element and a novice diplomat, but given the recent debacle in Liberia and the death of a colleague; her flight to London to be with her sick friend; and all that is uncovered about the death of Jared, her mistakes and bad judgment should be expected. The pressures she feels and the memories that haunt her are too much for any one person to deal with a high-stress position with government. Jordan is a complex character dealing with new grief, renewed old grief, and a demanding job in a city she once abandoned. Overall, Almost Home is a fast-paced, highly emotional, well-written novel.
This is my 13th new-to-me author for the 2010 New Authors Challenge.
I'm considering this for my 3rd book, a mix of the political and mob thriller , for the 2010 Thriller & Suspense Reading Challenge.
FTC Disclosure: I received a free copy of Almost Home by Pam Jenoff from the author. Clicking on title links or images will bring you to my Amazon Affiliate page; No purchase necessary.