"Mountain villagers are suspicious of outside aid workers"
Reviewed by Clare O'Beara
Posted August 10, 2015
Is there a thrill to lying? Pretending or living an amoral
life? There must be, or otherwise sensible adults would not
have affairs or steal from their workplace. Explore the
ALLURE OF DECEIT through this modern tale of aid work in
Afghanistan and one woman who falls foul of an ancient
Lydia Sendry runs a charitable foundation which disperses
grants in the name of her late tech wizard son. Lydia is
still determined to find out who ordered his untimely
death. One request comes from a Texas aid group that
teaches natural contraception methods and hopes to work
with poor women in Afghanistan. Pearl Hanson agrees to try
to find an Islamic group to partner with her as there is no
point in funding work that won't gain acceptance. The
Afghans also disapprove of orphanages.
The story flips to the village of Laashekoh where patriarch
Parsaa lives a simple life, providing for his family from
a farm and encouraging them to go to school, while
silently worried about his failing sight. When a Texas aid-
worker arrives by helicopter, distributing toys without
asking first, Parsaa worried that she seems to want to take
children away from communities who care for them, all
relatives helping if their parents die. That's not the
worst complaint he is going to hear about Pearl Hanson.
Land ownership, property transfers and arranged marriages
are hot topics in an area where the Taliban turned the
mountain dwellers' worlds upside down before being removed.
Now, any outsiders are suspect. Aid workers are considered
to earn good money from their grants while trying to impose
differing traditions. A quote from the Koran reminds us to
do good unto others; yet the doer of good is herself not
trusted because she is foreign. There's also a hint of
mining rare objects in these mountains. More than one motive
for the visitors?
I like the little touches such as mynah birds trained to
speak. But there is little light relief in a land where
angry people wave rifles and loose shots to make their
point. ALLURE OF DECEIT can be thought of as a thriller
about culture clash, or unintended consequences, but Susan
Froetschel's work is to me, more of a reflection on
differences, understanding and forgiveness.
A young inventor and his wife are killed in a terrorist
attackâ€”leaving behind a will that surprises friends and
parents by directing a vast fortune toward charities in the
developing world. On the ground in Afghanistan,
international charities rapidly search for Afghan partners
to compete for the attention of the new foundation, focusing
their efforts on two particular women in the village of
Laashekoh: a young mother who might have been wrongly
imprisoned for her role in helping to run a
child-trafficking ring; and an older, educated woman who has
a reputation for providing reproductive healthcareâ€”including
Meanwhile, most Laashekoh villagers do not want Western
charity and are astounded to be regarded as potential
recipients; they are self-sufficient and see no need for
outside intervention in village concerns. But when a group
of orphanage workers visiting the village goes missing, foul
play is immediately suspected and the villagers face tough
As Afghans and Westerners work to uncover the truth, the
reputations of charity workers, potential beneficiaries, and
locals in Laashekoh are called into question. The stakes are
high, the sums of money are huge, and cultures clash. All
these are motivations for fraud and murder in Allure of Deceit.
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