Gazelle in the Shadows
by Michelle Peach

"From the back seat of the car, I wondered how long it would be before I could be one of those people in the crowd, mingling with the people."

Elizabeth Booth, a British student at Durham University, has the opportunity of a lifetime to study abroad in Damascus, Syria. With her previous work experience in the British Embassy in Yemen, she has both a passion for and a familiarity with the Arabic language and culture. Although nervous at first, Elizabeth soon finds herself adjusting to life in the city, with friends and even a boyfriend making her feel welcome and introducing her to all that Damascus has to offer. But things aren’t always as they seem. Beneath the friendly smiles and warm invitations runs a complicated web of deceit and danger. If Elizabeth’s not careful, she just might get caught.

Set in the mid-90s in Syria, this novel follows Elizabeth as she navigates the cultural and political landscape of a historical city recovering from war and upheaval. The book draws on the author’s time spent in Damascus, first as a student and then as a translator. A fictionalized account of her travels, readers are introduced to a complex society where seemingly innocuous actions have consequences.

The author takes the time to give readers a political and historical background refresher to many of the factions that exist and events that happened in Syria and the surrounding Middle Eastern countries so as not to feel lost or confused. While it’s important to note that Damascus was considered dangerous at that time, the author also takes care to present the city and its citizens in a good light, as well, as shown by the hospitality of the locals and the beauty and accessibility of the city. Overall, the book features a good blend of drama, politics, and romance to make for an entertaining read.

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