“From the beach of the Royal Dohal Hotel in Qatar, Amy Prowers looked over the blue waters of the Persian Gulf. The view was a contrast to the wrangling of the executives and Middle East princes at the North Arabian Oil Conference in the hotel. Her friend, Princess Hassa, asked her to excavate the ancient city of Ubar, though she hadn’t a clue why Hassa, an archaeologist, needed her help….Prince Rashad felt no…guilt for those who died at the hotel.” How did he hope to assume power? No elections—only assassinations.
We meet Amy Prowers, the protagonist of The Bystander An Amy Prowers Book, by Katherine Burlake. She becomes embroiled in a tangled web of assassinations, intrigue, mystery, bombings, archaeological digs, royal succession to the throne, kidnapping, and friendship with the royal family. This is all working in unison against the backdrop of choking sandstorms. These sandstorms dominate the vista in the world of the Middle East.
The U.S. Embassy assigned a dangerous mission for Amy—to spy on her royal family friends—a task that was distasteful to Amy. The reason –it revolved around Prince Rashad, the head of a powerful group dubbed the Black Princes. It was common knowledge that nothing would stop him in his mission to be crowned king. The Embassy was concerned about the detrimental impact on American interests lest the kingdom was taken over by the Black Princes. Burlake was an Embassy senior financial management officer in Sauda Arabia, as she told me during our interview on Writers Café. Therefore the novel sounds not like a fictional work created out of the vivid imagination of a gifted author, but of a real news event. You expect to see the words, “as reported in the NY Times,” throughout the pages of this heart-stopping book.
As the excavation begins, Hassa explains to Amy, “On that rock ledge so the story goes, was the fortress of Ubar, until it slid down the mountain in an earthquake. Somehow the fortress stayed intact. Finding the fortress intact is good news…because the room with the safe is in the fortress…when Ubar fell, the people scattered and Hud was forgotten…over the centuries whenever there was a crime in this part of the world Bedouins would threaten to take the accused to Hud’s tomb. The threat often brought an immediate confession because the tomb is believed to be haunted…. we might find important Islamic artifacts…Ubar is our heritage.” Apparently, the royal couple needed Amy’s political connections to verify the findings–to establish the provenance.
An airplane lands—out steps a South African businessman who was knowledgeable about the importance of chemical waste disposal. However, this entrepreneur’s marketing campaign did not involve making a career in waste disposal. The real reason for his visit was “a free pass to bring chemicals into the Gulf countries where they weren’t available.”
As Amy and the Embassy staffers reach Hud’s tomb, they were kidnapped. The dilemma–who orchestrated this kidnapping? “Rashad thought about the madhouse the search would become once the Yanks were involved…what poor timing with that South African businessman arriving with the chemicals.” Nonetheless, he assured the American ambassador that the palace would embark on a hunting expedition to find Amy.
Since Rashad was “two heartbeats from…king he had to be seen by the Saudi people…as…sympathetic to commoners which is why he provided cheap electricity.” Not genuine sympathy, but the people benefited, nonetheless.
How was Amy coping in the role of the kidnapper? As she explained to her fellow captors, “I can cope in a crisis. You have to stay alert, appear to go along with them, but look for a way out.” A tough lady, indeed! Who rescued them? None other than that South African businessman. Nonetheless, the Embassy was suspicious of their savior. “No way had a Good Samaritan happened. Coincidences didn’t happen in the desert.”
Rashad wanted to find “the prophet’s book, the Qur’an …a manuscript believed lost for centuries. If it was found, Rashad would be first of all the royal princes to find such a treasure.” This, in addition to the provision of cheap electricity for the masses would “put him on the top of the list to be selected as deputy premier.” All about power and nothing but power. Rashad convened a meeting with the Black Princes who were all promised appointments to important ministries.
At long last Hassa revealed to Amy why she was asked to participate in the excavation. “Amy, you are the authority who will say what we found and where…the world, especially the Islamic world, will believe what we found was real. Someone outside the royal family can only prove the provenance…the validity of the Qur’an’s provenance would assure Rashad’s ambition to be the next- in- succession.
Did Amy Prowers verify the provenance of the Qur’an? Did Amy Prowers continue her friendship with the royal family? Was Prince Rashad successful in his quest to be the next in succession? How did Amy Prowers feel that she was no longer just a bystander? Did the Embassy ever find out anything about the gentleman who mysteriously appeared in the desert at just the right moment and who saved Amy Prowers? These are questions that can only be answered if you read The Bystander An Amy Prowers Book by Katherine Burlake.
“Anyone who enjoyed [the] thrilling tales of “Indiana Jones” will enjoy this book…” — David A. McCormick
The Saudi king is dying, and a successor must be chosen from the next generation, the grandsons of the assassinated Abdul Aziz and the founder of the kingdom. One prince, His Royal Highness Rashid Abdul Aziz is determined to rule, but royal blood is not enough. He needs to demonstrate he is worthy of the crown. If his wife can find the first Qur’an, used by the Prophet, Prince Rashid will be the next king. The prince fears, however, that the exquisite find won’t be enough. Secretly, he orders terrorists to eliminate his half-brothers and cousins.
Rashid needs someone he can trust. He asks Amy Prowers, to assist his wife, Princess Hassa, on the excavation and to validate the finding. Though Amy is not an archaeologist, her aunt’s private international organization, the Committee, has access to experts in the ancient city of Ubar in the Empty Quarter. Eager to help her deceased husband’s friend, Prince Rashid, Amy arrives and discovers there is more at stake than ancient cultures.
The kingdom is a breeding ground for a new generation of terrorists. A secret terrorist sect called the Black Princes put Amy’s life at risk as she becomes a participant in her friend’s quest for the Saudi throne.
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