Tuesday, February 10, 2009

What a wicked game we play

If you are looking for a well plotted spy novel that isn't afraid to show the emotional and physical wear of espionage, then have a look at Alex Berenson's the Silent Man. This book is the third book featuring his super-spy John Wells and it will thrill readers who love action-oriented spy novels. The threat of the book is the terrifying possibility of nuclear terror and Berenson spins a riveting narrative about how terrorists may attack.

Nuclear terror is a challenging subject as the author has to be conversant in nuclear technology and has to spin a credible tale about how nuclear material/weapons might be acquired. In both cases, Berenson does an excellent job. The acquisition plot line is nuanced and brutal. He also makes what could be a boring lecture, how bombs work, into a key and exciting part of the story.

I liked that Berenson explores the idea that the life of a spy is not terribly attractive. John Wells is estranged from his family, cannot connect well with those around him and has made a number of powerful enemies. That said Wells is a bit over-powered. He is like a spy and special operations officer combined, capable of amazing physical feats. This is partially explained by his many years of operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. A bit less believable is his predilection for getting in the faces of his superiors, including the DCI. I suspect in real life his behavior would get him a job as Chief of Station on Vanuatu.

If this book were a TV show, it would clearly be 24, and one of the good ones, no cougar sub-plots here. It has all the excitement of the show as well as strong characters. Berenson takes presents a number of interesting characters including a pathetic Russian who helps the terrorists and a disgraced Navy Captain whose independence helps the attempt to stop the terrorists. The show has gone hill, but you can get your fix with Berenson.

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