May 2006

Secret agent man

By Alex Berenson
Review by
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For American spy John Wells, returning home after nearly a decade undercover is not going to be easy. Alex Berenson's debut novel, The Faithful Spy, reads as if torn from the pages of the New York Times, and has already been optioned for film. It's a zigzagging tale of espionage in a very real world, where the War on Terror has seeped into every facet of its characters' lives. An investigative reporter turned novelist, Berenson weaves a startlingly pertinent tale of terrorism, espionage and action in a post-9/11 world.

As the only Westerner to ever successfully infiltrate al Qaeda, CIA operative Wells finds himself being hand-selected by the mastermind behind all terrorist attacks in America to assist in the jihadi's next strike against the United States, a biochemical attack on American soil. Unfortunately for Wells, years of broken communication with his superiors, less than impressive intelligence and Wells' own conversion to Islam have left him with few friends to count on. Mistrust swirls about him, and those who would stand by him including the analyst responsible for his debriefing, Jennifer Exley walk that thin line separating loyalty from treason.

Berenson's extensive experience in field journalism lends substantial validity to the framework of the story, so that at times The Faithful Spy reads more like nonfiction than fiction. The novel delves into some very serious issues, including the seemingly insurmountable odds faced by agencies such as the FBI and CIA as they struggle to locate and disband terror cells within the United States. Berenson does not downplay the terrors of war, nor idly glaze over the violence it involves. Suspenseful, heartbreakingly poignant and thrilling all at once, this novel could stand as an archetype for modern espionage classics.

Travis Taylor writes from Detroit, Michigan.


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The Faithful Spy

The Faithful Spy

By Alex Berenson
Random House
ISBN 9780345478993

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