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Syria is the most dangerous place in the world for journalists. More than 60 have been killed there since the war began, and many others have been kidnapped, becoming pawns in the conflict. The author picks up the trail of two colleagues, Austin Tice and Jim Foley, who vanished in 2012.

On May 23, 2012, a 30-year-old Georgetown University law student and former Marine captain, adapting to his newly reduced circumstances as a freelance journalist, crawled under a fence from southern Turkey into northern Syria. Austin Tice had not yet published a single article, but it didn’t matter. Since mass demonstrations had spilled over into a full-scale armed insurgency against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad six months before, Syria was the story that everyone wanted—all the more so because, with the Syrian government keeping a tight lid on visas, hardly any journalists were in the country. Just about the only way inside was to smuggle yourself under the protection of armed rebels, which suited Tice just fine. As a soldier, he already had tours in Afghanistan and Iraq under his belt. Now his ambition was to go back to the region with a fresh pair of eyes and launch a new career as a journalist...