Khalil, a twenty-three-year-old Belgian of Moroccan descent, plans to detonate a suicide vest in a crowd outside the Stade de France on November 13, 2015. Explosions are rocking Paris, at cafés and the Bataclan theater, and when other bombs drive the stadium crowd to flee in his direction, near the Metro, his time has come. He presses his button, and…nothing. Fearing he has failed in his mission for Fraternel Solidarity (FS), an ISIS affiliate, Khalil has little choice but to blend in with his would-be victims and run. Back in Belgium, he must lie low and avoid his militant brethren and the authorities. He relies on his family and friends for places to stay, but he keeps the truth about himself secret. All the while, he contemplates what he almost did, and what he will do next—particularly when it comes to light that his vest accidently had been a harmless training unit all along, and FS has a new mission planned for him.
In this daring, propulsive literary thriller, Yasmina Khadra takes readers to the margins of Europe’s glittering capitals, through neighborhoods isolated by government neglect and popular apathy, if not outright racism. And he brings to life an unusual protagonist, a young man struggling with family, religion, and politics who makes fateful choices, and in doing so dramatizes powerful questions about society and human nature.