Beirut picks up where Alexander McNabb's debut novel Olives left off, though in a manner which readers of the latter would have least expected. The second in The Levant Cycle, it retains most of the plot elements of its predecessor, namely the simmering political turmoil of an Arab nation made into a political thriller with an ill-fated romance.
Paul Stokes, Olives' protagonist, is found dead. A familiar calling card left by the killer stirs Paul's handler Gerald Lynch into a deeper, darker investigation. Topping the list of suspects is Michel Freij, a wealthy businessman and leading candidate in the upcoming presidential elections. The stakes grow higher after Gerald discovers an illegal arms deal, further complicated by the kidnapping of an innocent woman.
Dubbed "an explosive thriller" in its subtitle, there is enough action in Beirut to keep its plot lines running. However, the quality of such thrills is let down by paper-thin characters and average writing, rendering the explosions with a snap, pop and crackle at best.