Of Claire Berlinski’s marvelous debut novel, Loose Lips - a perfect blend of satire, romance, and suspense featuring a young female CIA operative - book critic Frank Bascombe observed: “It’s more than a little obvious that [protagonist] Selena Keller is Claire Berlinski.” Despite her assertions to the contrary, Berlinski isn’t above poking fun at that notion.
In Lion Eyes, a fictional Claire - the author of a novel about love among young CIA trainees - is unsuccessfully dodging a deadly Paris heat wave and her even deadlier ex-boyfriend. When she receives an e-mail from an Iranian admirer who wonders how to obtain a copy of Loose Lips in his native city of Esfahan, Claire wastes no time in replying. Her correspondence with the mysterious stranger, Arsalan - whose name means “the Lion” in Persian - quickly becomes personal, then intimate…then obsessive.
As Claire heads to Istanbul to find relief from the heat, her electronic flirtation with Arsalan begins, inevitably, to consume her. The boundary between reality and imagination blurs and then disappears. The Lion, meanwhile, is nurturing his own powerful fantasies about the author. To satisfy their growing passion, they agree to meet, back in Paris, but Claire soon learns that someone is secretly intercepting their communications.
Suddenly, Claire’s romantic dreams start to dissolve. As events take an unimagined, even dangerous turn, and as life begins menacingly to imitate art, Claire discovers that the Lion is not who she thinks he is.