The Birthday Girl - Stephen Leather
Tony Freeman first met Mersiha when she was a twelve-year-old killer with a Kalashnikov, fighting for her life in war-torn Yugoslavia. He rescued her from the heart of the brutal civil war and took her into his family where she grew up to be the perfect all-American teenager - pretty, vivacious, intelligent, but with an agonising secret in her past.
Freeman can only guess at what Mersiha went through before he adopted her. And he has problems of his own - an unfaithful wife and a struggling arms manufacturing company which is counting the cost of the peace dividend.
Mersiha is fiercely protective of her new family. And when, on the eve of her sixteenth birthday, she discovers that two of her father's company shareholders have made him an offer he's not expected to refuse, she decides to help. Whatever the risk. And Mersiha has been trained to kill.
The consequences of her interference are lethal because she has unearthed a dangerous conspiracy and the shareholders want revenge.
STEPHEN LEATHER WRITES
The Birthday Girl was my second book to be set in and around Baltimore. It was an attempt to write a Grisham-type thriller - young girl pursued by bad guys. The ending takes place in Colarado, with the heroine being chased by Mafia-guys on snowmobiles. A bit far-fetched maybe, I guess I was thinking in movie terms.
I love the central character, Mersiha, and the fact that she was a killer at a young age before she started her new life in the States. In a way she's like the hero of The Chinaman, underestimated by the so-called hard men, until she reveals her true colours.