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Potential readers of “Grains of Truth” should be warned that they might stay up all night reading. At least, that is what happened to me.

What kept me from sleep was the pure suspense I felt as the heroine encountered danger, romance and adventure on a mission for her government. I justified staying awake, to myself, with the knowledge that I was gaining a deeper understanding into the complex world of modern Egypt.

The 380-page novel, written by Lydia Crichton and published by Barringer Publishing, is a good read, and it is in sync with today’s news.

Crichton must be a natural born story-teller because in this book, her first novel, she manages to offer insights into the current situation in Egypt and the Middle East without detracting one iota from an exciting story. She lets her characters reveal shades of truth about Egyptian society from their individual perspectives.

The protagonist, Julia Grant, grew up in San Francisco during the 1960s. She is active in liberal causes, has a steady job working for a nonprofit agency, and she is somewhat skeptical about her government.

It is improbable that Julia would become an undercover agent for her government or find herself traveling across shifting sands in a faraway land as a kidnap victim of Muslim terrorists. Yet that happens. The story unfolds so captivatingly that I shushed my inner critic and vicariously experienced her perilous undertaking along with the unlikely heroine.

Julia’s life changes radically when she is approached by a well-dressed stranger. He knows her name, where she’s been and even about her love life.

The stranger, enabled by the USA Patriot Act, uses his knowledge of her trips to Egypt and a relationship she has had there with an Egyptologist, to maneuver Julia into willingly performing a “simple” mission for her country.

An operative, planted within the Muslim Brotherhood, has given the U.S. intelligence industry information about a possible terrorist plot. Another undercover agent, who was supposed to maintain contact with the operative, has disappeared. Julia is asked to replace this agent in order to obtain and deliver to Intelligence information vital to America’s interests.

She is uniquely qualified for this mission, she is told, because her trips to Egypt, and her romance with Mohamed Zahar, have come to the attention of Egyptian intelligence as well as U.S. intelligence. They have determined that her trips to Egypt are only personal so she will be above suspicion of espionage during this assignment.

Under the cover of doing research for a book on Egypt, Julia is provided with a laptop computer containing special software that codes and decodes messages for safe transmission over the net.

“Grains of Truth” is the first book in a Julia Grant series. The likeable heroine will continue to appear in books that present differing points of view on complex and controversial social and political issues in a compelling way, according to the author.

Crichton has written, but not yet published the second, “Los Otros,” based in the Napa Valley, and “Danny’s Boy.”

Crichton will be doing a book signing for “Grains of Truth” at Copperfield’s Books, located at 3740 Bel Aire Plaza in Napa, on Saturday, Sept. 21 from 1-3 p.m.

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