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Proof of Life: The Undercover Search for a Missing Person in Syria, where Arms, Drugs, and People Are for Sale

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A suspenseful and thrilling account by an armed-conflict mediator searching for a missing person in Syria over eighteen tense days. Daniel Levin was at his office one day when he got a call from an acquaintance with an urgent, cryptic request to meet in Paris. A young man had gone missing in Syria. No government, embassy, or intelligence agency would help. Could he? So beg A suspenseful and thrilling account by an armed-conflict mediator searching for a missing person in Syria over eighteen tense days. Daniel Levin was at his office one day when he got a call from an acquaintance with an urgent, cryptic request to meet in Paris. A young man had gone missing in Syria. No government, embassy, or intelligence agency would help. Could he? So begins a suspenseful, shocking, and at times brutal true story of one man’s search to find a missing person in Syria over eighteen tense days. Levin, a lawyer turned armed conflict negotiator, uses his extensive Middle Eastern contacts to chase one lead to the next. In Beirut he meets with a powerful sheikh to learn who may have kidnapped the young man. In Dubai he has drinks with the king of the Captagon trade (the ISIS drug of choice that is fueling fighters and Syria and elsewhere) to learn why. His search takes him to a bar in Amman where men “purchase” women, girls really, who have been taken from their families. And, finally, he is able to track down the truth. We all know the horrific stories of Westerners kidnapped in the Mideast, but Levin dives into a true heart of darkness where reporters don’t have access—an underground world where arms, drugs, and people are for sale. He effectively captures the industry of war—the few who profit and the many who suffer—and his book is a study of the hidden levers of power. It’s about how people use leverage to get what they want from one another, where no one does a favor without wanting something in return, whether it’s immediately or years down the road. Daniel Levin is one of the few people with the access, expertise, and ability to tell this story. Proof of Life is a fast-paced thriller wrapped in a memoir, and is a must-read for anyone interested international affairs, current events, the Middle East, or our growing number of forever wars. But it is by no means all dark. Daniel finds the devil in Syria, but what’s most surprising is that he also finds people of courage and kindness, people to whom awful things have been done but who retain their essential goodness and spirit.  


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A suspenseful and thrilling account by an armed-conflict mediator searching for a missing person in Syria over eighteen tense days. Daniel Levin was at his office one day when he got a call from an acquaintance with an urgent, cryptic request to meet in Paris. A young man had gone missing in Syria. No government, embassy, or intelligence agency would help. Could he? So beg A suspenseful and thrilling account by an armed-conflict mediator searching for a missing person in Syria over eighteen tense days. Daniel Levin was at his office one day when he got a call from an acquaintance with an urgent, cryptic request to meet in Paris. A young man had gone missing in Syria. No government, embassy, or intelligence agency would help. Could he? So begins a suspenseful, shocking, and at times brutal true story of one man’s search to find a missing person in Syria over eighteen tense days. Levin, a lawyer turned armed conflict negotiator, uses his extensive Middle Eastern contacts to chase one lead to the next. In Beirut he meets with a powerful sheikh to learn who may have kidnapped the young man. In Dubai he has drinks with the king of the Captagon trade (the ISIS drug of choice that is fueling fighters and Syria and elsewhere) to learn why. His search takes him to a bar in Amman where men “purchase” women, girls really, who have been taken from their families. And, finally, he is able to track down the truth. We all know the horrific stories of Westerners kidnapped in the Mideast, but Levin dives into a true heart of darkness where reporters don’t have access—an underground world where arms, drugs, and people are for sale. He effectively captures the industry of war—the few who profit and the many who suffer—and his book is a study of the hidden levers of power. It’s about how people use leverage to get what they want from one another, where no one does a favor without wanting something in return, whether it’s immediately or years down the road. Daniel Levin is one of the few people with the access, expertise, and ability to tell this story. Proof of Life is a fast-paced thriller wrapped in a memoir, and is a must-read for anyone interested international affairs, current events, the Middle East, or our growing number of forever wars. But it is by no means all dark. Daniel finds the devil in Syria, but what’s most surprising is that he also finds people of courage and kindness, people to whom awful things have been done but who retain their essential goodness and spirit.  

30 review for Proof of Life: The Undercover Search for a Missing Person in Syria, where Arms, Drugs, and People Are for Sale

  1. 4 out of 5

    Susan

    The author of this book, Daniel Levin, is a lawyer, turned armed-conflict negotiator. He is in Paris when a friend asks him for dinner to discuss a, 'life or death,' matter. An old friend has a son missing in Syria, could Daniel help? Despite his reservations, Daniel agrees to try to find Proof of Life of the young man who was last seen heading for Aleppo. What follows is a search for answers, which will lead to nightmarish trips to Beirut and Dubai, meeting dangerous men dealing in the drugs and The author of this book, Daniel Levin, is a lawyer, turned armed-conflict negotiator. He is in Paris when a friend asks him for dinner to discuss a, 'life or death,' matter. An old friend has a son missing in Syria, could Daniel help? Despite his reservations, Daniel agrees to try to find Proof of Life of the young man who was last seen heading for Aleppo. What follows is a search for answers, which will lead to nightmarish trips to Beirut and Dubai, meeting dangerous men dealing in the drugs and people trade in the Gulf. What comes across, after reading this very moving account, is the way humans are treated with such a lack of compassion by men who feel pride at wearing diamond studded shirts, brought through the abject misery of young girls, ripped from their families and misused. Although Daniel does, of course, find good people who will help him, the level of hypocrisy, cruelty and sheer evil he uncovers, is staggering. Not, perhaps, a comfortable book, but one well worth reading.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Rae Choins

    This book marked me in ways I can’t even begin to describe. Thank you, Daniel Levin, for sharing this story with us.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Michael Richter

    Hands down one of the best books I've ever read! I don't want to give away any spoilers, so I'll just say that the search for the person missing in Syria takes many amazing twists and turns, some laugh-out-loud funny moments and some shocking, painful moments. The epilogue stunned me. And I will never talk about war the same way again after reading the book's postscript. A masterpiece. Hands down one of the best books I've ever read! I don't want to give away any spoilers, so I'll just say that the search for the person missing in Syria takes many amazing twists and turns, some laugh-out-loud funny moments and some shocking, painful moments. The epilogue stunned me. And I will never talk about war the same way again after reading the book's postscript. A masterpiece.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Vicki Thornton

    Wow! What a book. Got me completely engaged from start to finish

  5. 4 out of 5

    Mike

    Wow - Loved it ! Fascinating tale of the author's quest to find a missing person in Syria. I learned a lot about Middle Eastern history, culture, customs and crime. This true story reads like a spy/mystery novel. Not only was this a story about a 'proof of life' mission, but also, a second story was revealed at the end. Outstanding book. Don't miss this one ! Wow - Loved it ! Fascinating tale of the author's quest to find a missing person in Syria. I learned a lot about Middle Eastern history, culture, customs and crime. This true story reads like a spy/mystery novel. Not only was this a story about a 'proof of life' mission, but also, a second story was revealed at the end. Outstanding book. Don't miss this one !

  6. 5 out of 5

    Donna Wetzel

    Thanks Goodreads for my copy of Proof of Life: The Undercover Search for a Missing Person in Syria, where Arms, Drugs and People are for Sale. I don't think anyone that has read this book by Daniel Levin would give it any less than 5 stars. Proof of Life is a life changing book that left me thinking about what I could do to make the world a better place. Levin shows us a side of the world that I am happy to not be a part of. This book is fast paced and interesting throughout as we feel, as reade Thanks Goodreads for my copy of Proof of Life: The Undercover Search for a Missing Person in Syria, where Arms, Drugs and People are for Sale. I don't think anyone that has read this book by Daniel Levin would give it any less than 5 stars. Proof of Life is a life changing book that left me thinking about what I could do to make the world a better place. Levin shows us a side of the world that I am happy to not be a part of. This book is fast paced and interesting throughout as we feel, as readers, that we are in this with Daniel trying to find out the truth about what happened to Paul. The US should do more to help end human trafficking and this book highlights why.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Milena Frank

    This is an extraordinary book - I could not put it down and read it in one sitting! The plot is utterly thrilling - actually, thrillers within thrillers - and the attention to detail (in both dialogues and settings) is fantastic. Levin's account is so immediate, so real, that I felt as if I was right next to him during those twenty days. The rendering of the sexual violence is devastating, as is the callousness exhibited by many perpetrators and indifferent bystanders. Levin shows deep empathy f This is an extraordinary book - I could not put it down and read it in one sitting! The plot is utterly thrilling - actually, thrillers within thrillers - and the attention to detail (in both dialogues and settings) is fantastic. Levin's account is so immediate, so real, that I felt as if I was right next to him during those twenty days. The rendering of the sexual violence is devastating, as is the callousness exhibited by many perpetrators and indifferent bystanders. Levin shows deep empathy for the victims, but without infantilizing them, and he resists depicting himself as any kind of hero. I intend to make this book required reading for my Middle East classes.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sharon Huether

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Daniel was doing a friend a favor, by trying to find a son of the man's friend. He was known to be in the Middle East. The search was a period of twenty days in 2014. Daniel met with Khalid and so careful not to offend the ruler, but listen and take counsel. The purpose was to find the person (Anas) was would know what happened to the missing American Paul. Daniel met with Anas's ex-wife to learn about him. She intern wanted Daniel to get her and her daughter out of the Middle East and into a Europ Daniel was doing a friend a favor, by trying to find a son of the man's friend. He was known to be in the Middle East. The search was a period of twenty days in 2014. Daniel met with Khalid and so careful not to offend the ruler, but listen and take counsel. The purpose was to find the person (Anas) was would know what happened to the missing American Paul. Daniel met with Anas's ex-wife to learn about him. She intern wanted Daniel to get her and her daughter out of the Middle East and into a European country. By accident Daniel stopped an assualt on a very young teen girl. Later her sister caught up with Daniel to thank him. That young girl led Daniel to Anas to help find out what happened to Paul. Daniel promised the girls he would get hem out of the Middle East, where they were sex slaves and into a European country where they could finish school. I want to thank Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill for the wonderful book I received.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    Just fantastic. The path taken to get to the end of this story was interesting, of course, but what I found most interesting in reading this was the frank assessments of the Syrian War, and its major players by people on the ground, or those taking advantage of the war for their own profit. Regardless, the story itself is extremely interesting, and once I started, I really couldn't put it down. Just fantastic. The path taken to get to the end of this story was interesting, of course, but what I found most interesting in reading this was the frank assessments of the Syrian War, and its major players by people on the ground, or those taking advantage of the war for their own profit. Regardless, the story itself is extremely interesting, and once I started, I really couldn't put it down.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bob Lingle

    Read this book. Read it if you like adventure. Read it if you like mystery. Read it if you're interested in international relations. The conflict in Syria. Human Rights issues. Black lives matter. Just pick it up, and read it. Read this book. Read it if you like adventure. Read it if you like mystery. Read it if you're interested in international relations. The conflict in Syria. Human Rights issues. Black lives matter. Just pick it up, and read it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lindsay

    Excellent, thrilling, suspenseful, and sad. Anyone interested in the Middle East, political landscapes, and the fraught circumstances of those caught in the middle will appreciate this masterful nonfiction look at a 20-day search for a missing man in war-torn Syria. Daniel Levin’s command of the subject matter is outstanding.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Teri

    An amazing and engaging reflection on the quest to find a missing person in war torn Syria. We follow the author throughout the Middle East and witness meetings with drug dealers, sex traffickers', gangsters and even Sheiks. This was a deeply disturbing and fascinating novel, I highly recommend that you read it. **I received an electronic ARC from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review of this book. An amazing and engaging reflection on the quest to find a missing person in war torn Syria. We follow the author throughout the Middle East and witness meetings with drug dealers, sex traffickers', gangsters and even Sheiks. This was a deeply disturbing and fascinating novel, I highly recommend that you read it. **I received an electronic ARC from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review of this book.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Harry

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. Was lucky to get an advanced copy and start the book before it went on sale. It's an interesting story although the pacing felt awkward: it'd pick up, and slow down, and pick up, and slow down, and then ends without leaving the reader with a whole lot. Perhaps the unsatisfying ending is meant to reflect the dissatisfaction Levin felt from having to find out that his man was already dead? The book is likely better appreciated by someone with a bit more understanding of the conflict in Syria than Was lucky to get an advanced copy and start the book before it went on sale. It's an interesting story although the pacing felt awkward: it'd pick up, and slow down, and pick up, and slow down, and then ends without leaving the reader with a whole lot. Perhaps the unsatisfying ending is meant to reflect the dissatisfaction Levin felt from having to find out that his man was already dead? The book is likely better appreciated by someone with a bit more understanding of the conflict in Syria than I have, but I certainly learned about the topic from reading (Levin's footnotes are awesome; to be honest, some chapters I felt like the footnotes were the best part, which probably means I ought to pick up some reading materials about the war in Syria).

  14. 4 out of 5

    Annie Wallace

    This was not something I would have ever concerned reading, but I enjoyed it. The writing was very clever and smart. Some of the stories seem like fiction, but were entertaining. I learned a lot about the Middle East and the dynamics throughout the region. I appreciated all the backstory and development presented with each character. I did not expect the book to go in the direction that it did. Cons: Parts of the book seemed to drag on. The post-script was very preachy.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sandi Rubin-Wright

    Incredible story. How blessed we are to NOT be living in such misery. I won't listen to the news from the Middle East with the same attitude. Incredible story. How blessed we are to NOT be living in such misery. I won't listen to the news from the Middle East with the same attitude.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    This is worth reading just for a better understanding of relationships and politics in the Middle East. Not to mention to mind blowing story. I had jet lag just reading it.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tristan

    Great book and story .....humanity at its worst and best. A page Turner.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Aida

  19. 5 out of 5

    Edna

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kasia Hubbard

  21. 5 out of 5

    Lisa Hawk

  22. 5 out of 5

    Stephany Campbell-Hatler

  23. 4 out of 5

    Anneliese

  24. 4 out of 5

    Jesse

  25. 5 out of 5

    Amanda Rudich

  26. 5 out of 5

    Ryan

  27. 4 out of 5

    Pam Humphreys

  28. 4 out of 5

    Megan Eischeid

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sammie Beck

  30. 5 out of 5

    Sarah

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