Baltimore Sun, January 4, 2009 (Review)

Just when you think it's not possible to read a debut novel that offers something fresh, a book comes along that catches you off-guard. Part of this off-kilter feeling, I suspect, came bundled with Mastras' biography, listing various television credits for genre offerings that suggest a novel would lack heft. But Fidali's Way is a lushly written, panoramic view of the hills of Pakistan, the violent conflicts nestled within this far-flung locale and the damaged souls of its main characters - especially Nick Sunder, an American traveler looking for a sliver of meaning after a life chasing materialistic dreams. That simple goal seems to crash down with the brutal murder of his current lover and his escape to the village of Gilkamosh after police suspicion prompts a horrifying interrogation. Nick is the story's linchpin, but its soul is Aysha, a beautiful young woman whose quest to study and practice medicine puts her at odds with her deeply fundamentalist community. The caldron stirs its ingredients to a boiling point, producing climaxes of violence that leave impact lasting like a brand placed on unwelcoming skin.

Sarah Weinman reviews crime fiction every month for The Baltimore Sun. Visit her Web site at