The faithful spy

Alex Berenson

Book - 2006

John Wells is the only American CIA agent ever to penetrate al Qaeda. Since before the attacks in 2001, Wells has been hiding in the mountains of Pakistan, biding his time, building his cover. During his time in the mountains he has became a Muslim and finds the U.S. decadent and shallow. With another al Qaeda plot looming, he returns to the U.S. but his superiors are unsure to about his loyalities and freeze him out.

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New York : Random House 2006.
1st ed
Item Description
"A novel."
Published in paperback (with different pagination) by Jove in 2008.
Physical Description
334 p.
Main Author
Alex Berenson (-)
Review by Booklist Review

Two years after U.S. secret agent John Wells infiltrates al-Qaeda, the events of 9/11 call into question his usefulness, if not his loyalty, but he keeps his cover and bides his time, burrowing closer to Osama while sincerely converting to the one true faith of Islam as the years slip by. When al-Zawahiri sends him home at last, it is to serve some undetermined role in a major, multiphase offensive cleverly designed to strike terror in the American heart by unleashing conventional, biological, and nuclear attacks from coast to coast. Berenson works against the inherent sensationalism of his story with a diversity of viewpoints and deft character sketches that avoid oversimplifying the complex beliefs and strategies of his combatants. The plotting is superlative, baffling readers and characters alike as the mastermind behind al-Qaeda's sleeper network wages covert war against a vigilant and resourceful enemy. As with Thomas Harris' Black Sunday (1975) or Joseph Finder's Zero Hour (1996), one could hardly ask for a more skillful, timely, and well-rounded translation of our worst fears into satisfying thrills; a sure bet for fans of Jack Higgins and Vince Flynn. --David Wright Copyright 2006 Booklist

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Debut novelist Berenson is given fine representation in this intriguing audio book. John Wells, an American CIA agent, has spent the last decade of his life successfully infiltrating the inner sanctums of al-Qaeda. Guilt-ridden over not having been able to stop the actions on September 11, he readily accepts the chance to return to the U.S. when he's recruited as one of the primary participants for an act of terrorism designed to bring the country to its knees. After being taken into custody by a suspicious CIA, Wells escapes and goes undercover on his own with the fervent hope that he can prevent whatever terrorism al-Qaeda is looking to unleash. Narrator Heffernan provides a rich, melodic voice for Berenson's novel. Helped by Tony Daniel's expert abridgment, Heffernan keeps the complicated story's expositional narrative moving with a clean journalistic detachment that enhances the growing suspense. Although he may stumble some when it comes to accents, Heffernan manages to make each character a distinct individual. Genre fans should relish this thinking man's thriller. Simultaneous release with the Random House hardcover (Reviews, Feb. 13). (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved Review by Library Journal Review

John Wells, a CIA special operations agent, was the first Westerner to graduate from the al Qaeda camps near Kandahar. After years spent fighting undercover in Afghanistan and Chechnya, he has been sent home to execute an unknown mission. Now a Muslim and a harsh judge of America's decadence, he finds that his CIA handlers no longer trust him. Even worse, neither does his Pakistani contact, an expert bomber who has prepared a series of devastating attacks on major U.S. cities. When Wells escapes from the CIA safe house where he is being interrogated, no one knows whether this double spy will stop a planned attack or help carry it out. In his debut thriller, investigative reporter Berenson has come up with an intriguing premise. However, when a plot adheres this closely to today's headlines, the novel's characters need to be truly convincing and the suspense ratcheted up a step, or else one might as well be reading a newspaper. The threats with which this thriller deals-fertilizer bombs, the plague, anthrax-are all too common, and a tepid romance that seems to have no real foundation adds little to the mix. Well written, but pretty standard stuff. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 2/1/06.]-Ronnie H. Terpening, Univ. of Arizona, Tucson (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted. Review by Kirkus Book Review

A thriller worthy of le Carré, beginning with an improbable premise--namely, the infiltration of al-Qaeda by an American agent. John Wells is a former college football star, unrepentant about having broken a Yalie's leg on the field of battle. Now, in a real war, he's a devout Muslim with a long beard and access to Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahri. But is he really a fundamentalist promoting terror? That's the lingering question of this taut tale by New York Times reporter Berenson (The Number, 2003), who deftly imagines the international shadowland where spooks and assassins ply their trades. In doing so, Berenson avoids the perils of caricature; his bad guys are legion, but they are also recognizably human, and if some of them are a shade evil ("The thought of attacking America always excited him"), others are not completely on board with the whole slaughter-the-infidel program. Wells, as it happens, works for the Great Satan; he's a "singular national asset," but one who likes to play by his own rules. Still, has he been turned? The bad guys seem to think he's one of them, for they've sent Wells home to enact a chain of events that will end with the detonation of a dirty bomb somewhere in New York. There are moments in all this that beg for the willing suspension of disbelief, but Berenson doesn't belabor them; neither does he overwork the formulas (rogue agent falls in love with beautiful but hard-bitten agency handler; bad guys make murderous mayhem), though the book is full of genre conventions. The payoff is tremendous, and there are standout episodes that hint that the fundamentalists know how to work American decadence--as when one terrorist recruits a patsy by telling him that it's all part of an audition for reality TV. Well done throughout, and sure to be noticed. After all, Keanu Reeves has already expressed interest in playing Wells. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.