"A well-crafted page-turner that addresses the most important issue of our time. It will keep you reading well into the night."-Vince Flynn A New York Times reporter has drawn upon his experience covering the occupation in Iraq to write the most gripping and chillingly plausible thriller of the post-9/11 era. Alex Berenson's debut novel of suspense, The Faithful Spy, is a sharp, explosive story that takes readers inside the war on terror as fiction has never done before. 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. Now, on the orders of Omar Khadri-the malicious mastermind plotting more al Qaeda strikes on America-Wells is coming home. Neither Khadri nor Jennifer Exley, Wells's superior at Langley, knows quite what to expect. For Wells has changed during his years in the mountains. He has become a Muslim. He finds the United States decadent and shallow.
- Edgar Awards (Edgar Allan Poe Awards)
After proving his loyalty in Afghanistan and elsewhere, CIA agent John Wells, the first Western intelligence officer to penetrate the upper levels of al-Qaeda, is assigned a mission on American soil by bin Laden's chief deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri. On his return to the U.S., Wells, now a devout Muslim (for real), finds his years spent in deep cover have left him conflicted. The agency itself seems wary of him-other than Jennifer Exley, the agency analyst who debriefs Wells (aka Jalal) on his return. The scrutiny intensifies when two bombs go off in L.A., killing 300. Berenson, a New York Times correspondent since 1999 who covered the occupation of Iraq, deftly employs the classic staples of spy fiction in his debut novel-self-serving bureaucrats, a beautiful co-worker love interest and an on-the-run hero suspected of being a traitor-then mixes in current terror tropes: car bombs, smuggled nuclear material, and bio-weapons. There's too much introspection from friend and foe alike, but mounting suspense, a believable scenario and a final twist add up to a compelling tale of frightening possibilities. It's not for the squeamish, though: the torture sequences and bombing descriptions are graphic and chillingly real. (Apr. 25) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
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April 25, 2006
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Excerpt from The Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson
North-West Frontier, on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan
sheikh gul scowled at his congregation. "These days every Muslim must fight jihad," he said in Pashtun, his voice rising. "When the Mongols invaded Baghdad, it didn't help the people of Baghdad that they were pious Muslims. They died at the swords of the infidels."
The sheikh threw his hands over his head.
"Now Islam is under siege again. Under siege in the land of the two mosques, and the land of the two rivers"-Saudi Arabia and Iraq. "Under siege here in Pakistan, where our leader works for Americans and Jews. Everywhere we are under siege," said the sheikh, Mohammed Gul. He was a short, bearded man with a chunky body hidden under a smooth brown robe. His voice seemed to belong to someone much larger. Inside the mosque, a simple brick building whose walls were covered in flaking white paint, the worshippers murmured agreement and drew together. Brothers in arms. But their assent enraged the sheikh further.
"You say, 'Yes, yes.' But what do you do when prayers are finished? Do you sacrifice yourselves? You go home and do nothing. Muslims today love this world and hate death. We have abandoned jihad!" the sheikh shouted. He stopped to look out over the crowd and wipe his brow. "And so Allah has subjugated us. Only when we sacrifice ourselves will we restore glory to Islam. On that day Allah will finally smile on us."
Except it sounds like none of us will be around to see it, Wells thought. In the years that Wells had listened to Gul's sermons, the sheikh had gotten angrier and angrier. The source of his fury was easy to understand. September 11 had faded, and Islam's return to glory remained distant as ever. The Jews still ruled Israel. The Americans had installed a Shia government in Iraq, a country that had always been ruled by Sunnis. Yes, Shias were Muslim too. But Shia and Sunni Muslims had been at odds since the earliest days of Islam. To Osama and his fellow fundamentalist Sunnis-sometimes called Wahhabis-the Shia were little better than Jews.
Al Qaeda, "the Base" of the revolution, had never recovered from the loss of its own base in Afghanistan, Wells thought. When the Taliban fell, Qaeda's troops fled east to the North-West Frontier, the mountainous border of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Wells had narrowly escaped an American bomb at Tora Bora, the last big fight of the Afghan war. He liked to imagine that the bomb had been guided by Glen Holmes, who had swung it away from the hut where Wells hid.
But the United States hadn't closed the noose at Tora Bora, for reasons Wells had never understood. Thousands of jihadis escaped. In 2002, they reached the mountains of the North-West Frontier, so named by the British, since the area was the northwest border of colonial India. The North-West Frontier was a wild land ruled by Pashtuns, devout Muslims who supported Qaeda's brand of jihad, and was effectively closed to Pakistani and American soldiers. Even the Special Forces could operate there only for short stretches.