Whiskey Tango Foxtrot by David Shafer

Leila Majnoun is on assignment in Myanmar for a New York based nonprofit.  She likes to think she’s making a differencewhiskey despite the struggles with governmental bureaucracies and her inept higher-ups.  When Leila travels to a distant point in the country, she witnesses things not meant for her knowledge – and the powers that be there are easy to show their displeasure towards her.

Leo Crane is a likable screw-up who is good with kids and power tools but terrible with holding down jobs and reality, unless he has the help of pot and alcohol.  As the son of money, Leo has at least a steady stipend, but his older sisters become increasingly weary of bailing him out for his failings and want to commit him.  As he regresses into drug-induced paranoia, his online rantings invite some unwelcome attentions.

As a complete fluke, ex-best friend of Leo’s Mark Deveraux manages to spin his own aphorisms into a bestselling self-help book, but his sophomore effort is dead in the water, which is not a help for his extravagant lifestyle.  It’s sheer luck for Mark that he becomes something of a life coach for James Straw, the CEO of SineCo, a huge cooperation on the cutting edge with data storage and other nefarious things.  Straw wants Mark on board as spokesman for SineCo, but something doesn’t seem right.

A family crisis sends Leila packing towards home, but she has some detouring through Dublin when she gets nicely abducted by the clandestine group Dear Diary.  They claim that another organization called the Committee has designs on possessing all online information.  Leila is skeptical about the Dear Diarists, but she goes along with them, and learns just how scary things can get.

Somehow, Leila, Leo, and Mark manage to intersect with each other, confront their own fears and deal with the menace that is the Committee.

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot is funny and sometimes confusing romp through international politics and conspiracy theory.  If you like location change, this book jumps all over – from Myanmar to London to New York to Portland, Oregon.  It has love interests, heisted cars, scary bosses, and secluded Oregon cabins – what more could you want?

Watch out for those webcams.

(William Hicks, Information Services)

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