It is fun to pick up a book from an author you haven’t read before, and get amply rewarded with a a good story. Dark Clouds, by author Phil Rowan, was a chance find. If you like a terrorist chase and not too much heroics, then this book might be for you.

Dark Clouds follows journalist, Rudi Flynn, as he manages his sagging career and the demands of being an unwilling spy for his government. He is an American on European soil. What makes him valuable to Homeland security is not merely his connections to various radicalists, but, the fact that he has suffered personal loss in the September 11th tragedy.

Surrounded by enigmatic powerful women, and imminent dangers, Flynn barely manages to stay one step ahead of trouble. His contacts from his journalism career are neck deep in terrorist groups, even though they themselves are supposedly innocent. His friend from college is a self proclaimed jihadist. His friend’s sister is in love with an even more terrible guy. And, Flynn’s primary contact in Homeland Security, Carla Hirsch, borders on an often cruel hysterical anger towards anyone with even the slightest of radical tendency.

How does Flynn survive the stress? Not as an average hero would. This guy hides behind sarcasm and liquor. The dry humour in his dark thoughts add a number of unexpected laughs in awkward places. One complain, sometimes, I wasn’t sure what was said out loud vs. what was simply a highly entertaining derogatory thought safe in his head.

There was a love story too. But, it started too abruptly and ended too soon to be entirely convincing. However, most characters had enough layers to keep one guessing. A necessary quality for a good thriller for sure.

The terrorists’ plan is nuclear. So, there is a serious threat and a lot of snooping to find the whereabouts of the culprits. I would have liked a few more surprises on the way and perhaps, higher stakes.

On the whole, the book is well written with smart editing. The dailogues, specially Flynn’s internal monologue, keeps the story fresh.

Will the reluctant hero save the day or atleast himself, specially when sometimes his own side seems to consist of the bad guys? Read the book to find out.