The Secrets We Live In

A Novel

Fiction - Thriller - Espionage
317 Pages
Reviewed on 01/04/2022
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Author Biography

FAZLE CHOWDHURY is a novelist, historian, management consultant and university lecturer. A fellow at the Global Policy Institute, he now spends his time between Montreal and Washington D.C.

    Book Review

Reviewed by K.C. Finn for Readers' Favorite

The Secrets We Live In: A Novel is a work of fiction in the thriller and espionage subgenres. It is aimed at mature readers and was penned by author Fazle R Chowdhury. The book follows Ambassador Zain Auzaar who has been sent to Paris to liaise with the French government. Disowned by his family and flirting with alcoholism, Zain quickly finds himself caught in the crossfire between his home nation and the nation he resides in as he gets dragged into a dangerous conspiracy. With all his problems mounting up, the last thing he needs is to cross paths with his now-married former love.

This book finds a wealth of material in the dark backrooms of politics where the real work of negotiation and deal-making is done, tapping into the seedier side of politicians who make big promises only to serve themselves. Fazle R Chowdhury has created an intricate web of intrigue for the reader to get tangled up in alongside protagonist Zain Auzaar, one that doesn’t feel too far from the reality of international politics. The prose on show in this book constantly manages to create a perfect air of uncertainty as the surface level of the various characters is gradually eroded to reveal unpleasant truths. The Secrets We Live In tells a complex-yet-consistent tale that skirts gently along the edge of realism, constantly blurring the line between the fiction of Zain’s journey with the cold reality of the world it is set in. Overall, I'd highly recommend this book to all thriller fans.

Natalie Soine

The Secrets We Live In by Fazle Chowdhury is set in Paris and tells the story of Zain Auzaar, an unconventional new ambassador in Paris who becomes a target for assassination. Salima Abbasid, his Chief of Staff, together with contract agent Mazaar and his unit co-ordinator Lt Colonel Ferdash, Chief of Operations for intelligence services, protect Zain from numerous threats with help from Berzad, a former lieutenant in the army. Edward Blakensoff, a wealthy real estate mogul, is married to a woman who Zain believes is his past love Aylin Akhundov, now called Brianna. Berzaad needs to extract nuclear schematics codes from Dr. Walter Ule. Mazaar is part of Operation Dionysus—a plan to kidnap 89-year-old Dr. Walter Ule, a biotech physicist and a former Nazi who sold nuclear designs. Ule, also known as Johannes Heidricht, was a German SS officer who was responsible for murdering and sending over two thousand Hungarian Jews to concentration camps. Zain is cast into a spider’s web of conspiracies, fraud, corruption, and lies. Unsure of who to trust, Zain confides in the people closest to him, not knowing that one of them is a deceiver.

The Secrets We Live In is an exciting thriller filled with twists, turns, and surprises as someone tries to sabotage Zain’s nuclear agreement with the French. The interesting array of characters include the military, government officials, crime syndicates, and politicians from various countries. The story is smooth flowing and an easy read from beginning to end with a great dialogue that gives some clarity amidst the chaos surrounding Zain and his associates. I especially enjoyed the way author Fazle Chowdhury shares Zain’s pain and confusion through his thoughts and dreams. All round, a great novel and highly recommended for adults only.

Grant Leishman

The Secrets We Live In: A Novel by Fazle Chowdhury is a high-level tale of intrigue, murder, and back-room deals that define foreign policy. Zain Auzaar is a newly appointed ambassador for his country to France. He has quickly made a name for himself in diplomatic circles as unconventional, a profligate spendthrift, a heavy drinker, and a showman of the highest caliber. His Paris diplomatic parties are legendary but beneath all the flash and color, Auzaar is determined to make a difference and to push through his country’s nuclear deal, which it so desperately needs. When he chances across a face from the past at one of his legendary parties--a married woman he once loved deeply and one he has never truly forgotten but whom he believed to be dead--his carefully orchestrated world starts to crumble. Caught up in the refugee crisis that was currently sweeping across France, Auzaar must carefully balance his responsibilities to his employers, his country, and the diplomatic community as a whole with his depth of concern for the refugees and his certainty that he has found his one and only true love and that somehow, he must unravel the mysteries of the past and find out the truth.

The Secrets We Live In: A Novel is a complicated web of intrigue and counter-conspiracies that define the rarefied world of the diplomatic community. Author Fazle Chowdhury has managed to create a cast of characters that are, on the surface, intelligent, sophisticated, urbane, and working for the betterment of their own country’s position and humanity as a whole, yet frequently are as rotten to the core and as driven by personal foibles, desires, and status as any of the politicians which they so frequently disparage. The plot is twisting, complicated, and well-constructed. What I particularly enjoyed was the author’s ability to draw out the sensitive, caring, and humanitarian side of Auzaar who had been born with the proverbial silver spoon in his mouth and carried himself publicly with all the arrogance and status that his exalted position dictated. The author did a fine job of showing us the deep insecurities and doubts of this young and dynamic ambassador that allow the reader to identify with him and feel empathy and a degree of sympathy. The plot, the characters’ motivations, and the ultimate conclusion are carefully constructed and will keep the reader enthralled to the end. I did enjoy this read and can recommend it.

Vincent Dublado

A muscular espionage thriller with a brain to boot, The Secrets We Live In by Fazle Chowdhury sets the stage for a world shrouded in conspiracy, mystery, and deception. Set in Paris, the story introduces you to Ambassador Zain Auzaar, appointed to the post as his country's Ambassador to France. At forty-three, he didn’t earn his position through the foreign service ranks. A former CEO of a hedge fund and with a penchant for thoroughbred horses, Auzaar, in his successful diplomatic and medical campaigns, has caught the interest of politicians. His biggest challenge is yet to come when Walter Ule, a former Nazi who sold nuclear designs, was kidnapped some time ago, and Auzaar is suspected to have a hand in it. Auzaar is no mere ambassador. There are those who believe that he is an asset of an unknown intelligence group. As political tension escalates involving a nuclear deal and a refugee crisis, a past love adds a distraction to Auzaar’s mounting problems.

As a character, Zain Auzaar is a wonderful creation. He is the type of person you either trust or don’t. It escapes you how he seems to have no barriers when it comes to getting things done, but you can credit it to his interpersonal skills, having built a network of connections that he uses to his advantage. Fazle Chowdhury writes with a kind of determined conviction that pushes his narrative to intense levels. What I like about the story are the gritty scenes surrounding the diplomat’s life. It’s a very demanding task, one that requires you to tread carefully or risk bringing the country you represent into disrepute. But maybe that is the least of Auzaar’s concerns. He will do things the way he deems fit, even at the risk of making enemies. Still, The Secrets We Live In manages to stay at ground level. The plot is pulsating with energy, and the romantic angle does not distract but blends well with the whole storyline. Those who love political and espionage thrillers will find this novel absolutely engaging.

Stephanie Chapman

The dilemma of doing questionable backroom deals to achieve positive results is the focus of The Secrets We Live In. Fazle Chowdhury introduces a colorful cast of characters involved in politics. Paris Ambassador Zain Auzaar has difficulty focusing on policy deadlines as he constantly reminisces about his lost soulmate, Aylin Akhundov. Meanwhile, his security team struggles to keep him safe from several assassination attempts. Chief of Staff Salima Abbasid becomes increasingly frustrated with Zain’s impulsive nature that places him in danger. She eventually begins deceiving him into meetings that he has avoided during a party at the mansion. Meanwhile, Representative Jessica Donamessi is at odds with trying to increase the budget for security agencies in the United States. In direct opposition is Representative David Scheinermann, who heads a committee on nuclear proliferation. In the background is Simon Eldan, Donamessi’s Chief of Staff. Rumored to actually be in charge, Eldan has access to intelligence records that could expose numerous corrupt politicians. The debates and the deals begin, which heighten the moral dilemmas that the politicians must face in this story.

I am not affiliated with any political party, and I like that Chowdhury is able to show the views of both sides without favoring either side. The Secrets We Live In caters to showing the darker side of politicians who promise changes that they realistically cannot achieve. Zain and Simon were the most interesting characters to me. The sincere desire to make life better for people was their driving force. This desire was motivational for Zain’s security and intelligence officers and proved their loyalty by keeping his knowledge of certain threats to a minimum. Simon’s undertakings to gain knowledge that was needed to disarm Schneidermann’s agenda of isolation and dictatorship were pure genius. He calculated everything down to the most minute detail to avoid being detected. The end of the book ties the two stories together. I learned a lot from the story, and it does have me wondering if some situations could actually be possible in reality. I recommend this book to readers interested in conspiracy theories and politics. Likewise, I can guarantee that the ending will catch any reader off guard.