BELIEVERS: Love and Death in Tehran.


Availability: In stock
Published: 2020
Page #: xii + 366
ISBN: 978-1568593807


+ Add to Cart

Quick Overview

Thirty years have passed since a shattered Nilufar Hartman, pregnant and betrayed, fled Iran. She barely got out alive, carrying her deepest secrets of love and tragedy.

Nilufar had arrived in Tehran in November 1979 to take a job as a junior American diplomat at the U.S. Embassy. She had instead spent nine years as an American spy, reporting from deep inside the new Islamic Republic as it collapsed into extremism, civil strife, and war. After her return to America, she chose a quiet university life and swore she would never again do Washington’s bidding.

Her tranquility is upended by a plea from Alan Porter, the man who had sent her to Tehran in 1979. Porter tells her about a plot by colluding American and Iranian extremists to provoke a war between the two countries. He says she is the only person who can stop it.

Nilufar is reluctant to go back to Iran, vividly recalling the agony of her years under cover, when she posed as a believer, the devout and revolutionary “Massoumeh”. She can never forget the horrific end to her mission when her lover and the father of her unborn child were murdered.

A commitment to serve the United States, which never died inside her, propels her back into the maelstrom. Nilufar adopts another covert identity and returns to Iran to end the parallel conspiracies intent on sparking a conflict. While she is working in Tehran, Porter must stop the Americans ready to promote their private agendas through mass murder. Nilufar must evade Iran’s vicious secret police, deliver a message from America, convince a patriotic but suspicious group of Iranians to act, and once more manage a narrow escape from both Iran and her own memories.


Marc Grossman

Ambassador Marc Grossman served as the Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, the State Department's third ranking official, until his retirement in 2005 after 29 years in the US Foreign Service. As Under Secretary, he helped marshal diplomatic support for the international response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. He also managed US policies in the Balkans and Colombia and promoted a key expansion of the NATO alliance. As Assistant Secretary for European Affairs, he helped direct NATO's military campaign in Kosovo and an earlier round of NATO expansion. Ambassador Grossman was the US Ambassador to Turkey 1994 – 1997. Ambassador Grossman was a Vice Chairman of The Cohen Group from July 2005 to February 2011. In February, 2011 President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton called Ambassador Grossman back to service as the US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. Ambassador Grossman promoted the international effort to support Afghanistan by shaping major international meetings in Istanbul, Bonn, Chicago and Tokyo. He provided US backing for an Afghan peace process designed to end thirty years of conflict and played an important part in restoring US ties with Pakistan. He returned to The Cohen Group in February, 2013. Ambassador Grossman is Chairman of the Board of the Senior Living Foundation of the Foreign Service. He is a Trustee of the German Marshall Fund of the United States, the UC Santa Barbara Foundation, and Robert College of Istanbul. Ambassador Grossman is Vice Chair of the American Academy of Diplomacy. In 2013, Ambassador Grossman was Kissinger Senior Fellow at the Johnson Center for the Study of American Diplomacy at Yale University. Raised in Los Angeles, California, Ambassador Grossman has a BA in Political Science from the University of California, Santa Barbara and an MSc in International Relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science.

John Limbert

During a 34-year career in the United States Foreign Service, Ambassador John Limbert served mostly in the Middle East and Islamic Africa, including posts in Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Guinea, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. He was president of the Foreign Service employees’ union, the American Foreign Service Association (2003-2005), and ambassador to Mauritania (2000-2003). In 2009-2010, on leave from the Naval Academy, he served as Deputy Assistant Secretary responsible for Iran, in the State Department’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs. After retiring from the State Department in 2006, he was Class of 1955 Professor of Middle Eastern Studies at the U.S. Naval Academy, where he taught history and political science until retiring in 2018. In the academic year 2015-16 he held the Gruss-Lipper fellowship in Middle East policy at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School. A native of Washington, D.C, Ambassador Limbert attended the D.C. public schools and earned his B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from Harvard University, the last degree in History and Middle Eastern Studies. Before joining the Foreign Service in 1973, he taught in Iran as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kurdistan Province (1964-66) and as an instructor at Shiraz University (1969-72). He has written numerous articles and books on Middle Eastern subjects, including Iran at War with History (Westview Press, 1987), Shiraz in the Age of Hafez (University of Washington Press, 2004), and Negotiating with Iran: Wrestling the Ghosts of History (U.S. Institute of Peace, 2009). Ambassador Limbert was among the last American diplomats to serve at the American Embassy in Tehran. He holds the Department of State’s highest award – the Distinguished Service Award – and the department’s Award for Valor, which he received in 1981 after fourteen months as hostage in Iran. He and his wife, the former Parvaneh Tabibzadeh, currently live in New York City. They have two children and four grandchildren.

Prologue: The Present. Middlebury, Vermont
Chronology of Real-World Events.
1. Nilofar
2. Massoumeh
3. Porter
4. Beheshti
5. In Plain Sight
6. Ruzbeh
7. The Two Rafsanjanis
8. Behnam Alley
9. Sarhaddi
10. Two Conspiracies
11. Nazanin
Epilogue: Vermont, One Year Later
About the Authors





A Spy Story with a Heart
Marc Grossman and John Limbert, two retired diplomats, have written the finest spy story that I’ve read in years. BELIEVERS, Love and Death in Tehran, is the rare book that focuses on the spy as opposed to the counter-espionage team trying to find the mole. In so doing, they weave a very human story through a timeline of historical events in such a way that the reader both empathizes with the lonely spy and recalls the emotions brought on by the hostage crisis that followed the Islamic revolution
Grossman and Limbert each have extensive experience in the region and at the State Department’s highest levels. Grossman had been Ambassador to Turkey, Undersecretary for Political Affairs, and was called out of retirement to be Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan in 2011. Limbert, also a former Ambassador, spent much of his career in the Middle East and Islamic Africa. He was also among the hostages at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran from 1979 to 1980. He retired to teach history at the U.S. Naval Academy but took leave in 2010 to return to the State Department to head the office responsible for U.S. Iran policy
With their backgrounds, the reader longs to know how much of the novel is fiction and how many kernels of truth are embedded in the narrative. Indeed, the book covers Iran’s history beginning with the hostage crisis, Iran’s war with Iraq, the attack on the USS Stark, Iran-Contra affair, and the downing of Iran Air 655 by the USS Vincennes. You see these events both through the eyes of the spy and senior U.S. policymakers.
There is enough tradecraft to satisfy anyone looking for a classic cloak-and-dagger tale and a love affair that is believable enough to satisfy someone looking for pulp fiction. I might pick a few nits over the spy’s initial exfiltration and am tempted to observe that, at times, the background narrative reads like an internal memo at the State Department. But those are minor flaws and much less objectionable than the flowery prose in other books that I recently read
The book jumps to the present to close out the primary story. With a plot device worthy of the conspiracy theories that populate some corners of the Internet, they offer a satisfactory resolution to several threads of the story. But it was the epilogue that makes me say that was the most satisfying book that I’ve read this year. In it, the story again focuses on the human side of living with secrets. For that reason, it is particularly satisfying when the protagonist, a strong-willed woman who had endured so much comes, finally tells her son, grandson, family and a few close friends the story of her life while facing death
Ambassador Richard Holwill ( retired).


A tale of intense excitement and labyrinthian intrigue. It grabs you by the throat and refuses to let go. Grossman and Limbert (who was a hostage at the US Embassy in 1979) weave a story that is dazzling in detail and literary grace. This debut work achieves the goal of a masterful novel: to educate and entertain
—William S. Cohen
New York Times Bestselling Author and Former Secretary of Defense.


Grossman and Limbert have written a gripping novel, combining the best of espionage intrigue with a plausible yet frightening story of US-Iranian relations. Skillfully written, steeped in history, and amazingly relevant for today.
—Ross Harrison
Senior Fellow, The Middle East Institute and on the faculties of Georgetown University and the University of Pittsburgh.


Limbert and Grossman have written an exceptionally intelligent novel embedded deep in the reality of Iran and the dangerous art of spying in a hostile land. Foreign Service Officer Nilufar Hartman, arrives in 1979 Tehran at what initially appears to be the exactly wrong place at the wrong time — as Muslim students storm the US embassy. For her it turns out to be exactly the right place. Nilufar’s story is suspenseful, romantic, and vitally important. This book never lets up.
—Mark Bowden
Award winning author of "Black Hawk Down" and "Guests of the Ayatollah.


With Believers: Love and Death in Tehran, Ambassadors Marc Grossman and John Limbert have crafted a riveting and exceptional international thriller based upon the U.S.-Iran conflict of the late-1970s and 1980s—filled with the explosive tension and authenticity that only savvy veteran insiders in Middle East diplomacy could have produced. A nuanced yet pulse-pounding espionage tale with a great female protagonis
—Samuel Marquis
Author of "Soldiers of Freedom" and "Blackbeard: The Birth of America." #1 Denver Post Bestselling, Award-Winning Historical Fiction.


Limbert and Grossman have written a riveting thriller woven into forty years of revolutionary Iran’s tensions with the United States. It is filled with rich characters, history and twists that take readers right up to the dangers of an open conflict today. It’s tremendously relevant to our times. The former diplomats know the reality of U.S. policy up close. Limbert, as a former hostage at the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, knows the Islamic Republic like few other Americans
—Robin Wright
Author of "Rock the Casbah: Rage and Rebellion Across the Islamic World".
Login or Create Account