Two battle-weary Israeli intelligence operatives--both on the verge of taking desk jobs--agree to tackle one last mission in this rousing, if overly sentimental, thriller about duty and dirty tricks in the desert. The two superagents, Eytan Eckstein and Benni Baum, accept the assignment to uncover the identity of a mole who has infiltrated Israel's nuclear missile defense system. The mission will force them to slip into Ethiopia to rescue a Czech defector, Jan Krumlov, who promises to divulge the name of the mole. Krumlov, however, has conditions: Eckstein and Baum must first extract his wife from Bosnia, then help him bring 50 Ethiopian Jewish children he's protecting back to Israel. Eckstein and Baum hold up their end of the bargain, but once in Ethiopia, they discover that Krumlov is a much more complicated man, with far more complicated motives, than first believed. He's also wanted dead or alive by a vicious band of Ethiopian rebels who don't care who else might get killed in their manhunt.
Hartov, who himself worked in Israeli intelligence, infuses his story with enough realistic detail about espionage and the military to keep the intrigue high. For all its clever twists and high drama, however, the story suffers from bloat. At several points, it bogs down in schmaltzy dialogue and thickly applied subplots about the regrets of career soldiers and their domestic troubles. Eckstein and Baum, returnees from Hartov's previous novels The Heat of Ramadan and The Nylon Hand of God, are solid but predictable heroes. Far more absorbing are some of the story's secondary characters, who show the human side of the dark world of espionage.