When people ask me to boil down The Swede/My Name Is N into a few lines, I have a hard time—because the book is complex and contains many different themes.

But one idea that’s important to me dates back to the time I first started writing the novel. When the Thailand tsunami struck in 2004, more than 500 Swedes on holiday were killed, and thousands more were reported missing.

I suspected that some of the missing would decide to disappear. Start new lives.

Later, when I spoke to Swedish authorities, they told me that my hunch was right. They believe that some of those listed as missing did survive, but have never officially resurfaced.

— Robert Karjel

At a remote military base in the Indian Ocean, the FBI is trying to get a prisoner to confess. But the detainee, a suspect in an Islamist-inspired terror attack in the United States, refuses to talk.

Ernst Grip, a Swedish security officer, has no idea why he’s been dispatched to New York City. The FBI agent he meets on arrival, Shauna Friedman, seems to know a little too much about him. And when he arrives at his real destination, the American authorities have just one question: Is their terror suspect a Swedish citizen?

In the process of uncovering the prisoner’s true identity, Grip discovers the man’s ties to a group of other suspects—a ruthless American arms dealer, a Czech hit man, a mysterious nurse from Kansas, and a heartbreakingly naïve Pakistani. The closer Grip gets to the truth, the more complicated the deception becomes. Who is real, and who is leading a double life?

Robert Karjel’s The Swede is an intense novel about the compromises that people—and nations—make in the name of security and survival. Within this world built on secrets, Grip and Friedman have to learn to trust each other if they hope to stay alive.