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Terrorist bombings, family secrets, sibling conflicts, corruptive wealth, maze-like conspiracies, a closeted 18-year-old Muslim scion and a handsome homo flight attendant: Rice stuffs a whole lot of plot into his fifth novel. The story is somewhat dense, with oodles of expository asides, but nonetheless zips along at a page-turner pace. When West Hollywood party-boy flight attendant Cameron is caught on video fleeing a Hong Kong hotel bombing, accompanied by a shady Middle Eastern character, his slightly estranged but still loyal sister, Megan, sets out to prove her brother is no terrorist.

Despite Cameron’s proclivities – and his interaction with a young, hedonistic Saudi Prince, Aabid, who tries to buy Cameron’s affections with an envelope of cash – there’s less queer content than in Rice’s previous books. Instead, in fine thriller fashion, the novel tackles the murky, menacing world of great wealth, overarching egos, the politics of oil, the strictures of religion and the riveting intersection of greed and power. It’s a mega-tale balanced nicely by the evolving relationship between a sister and a brother who, growing up, learned to depend on each other.

The Moonlit Earth, by Christopher Rice.
Scribner, 368 pages, $25 hardcover

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