Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Shadow Patrol by Alex Berenson

I've come late to the party as far as Alex Berenson's series of books featuring CIA operative John Wells is concerned. The Shadow Patrol is the sixth and latest in that series.

In this episode Wells has to operate as a problem solver when it becomes clear that there's a leak inside the CIA office in Kabul and information is getting to the Taliban. Equally troubling, it appears that someone in the U.S. military is involved in the heroin trade.

What struck me about The Shadow Patrol is that it's the first post-9/11 espionage thriller that I've read that focused on misbehaving U.S. troops. I suppose that was inevitable and echoes both reality and prior wars (i.e. Vietnam). That's not to say that I expect every U.S. soldier to be an eagle scout. It's just notable from a my personal standpoint.

The Shadow Patrol suffered in my opinion from two plot flaws. First, the antagonist gets only the lightest treatment. Rather than being mysterious, he's simply absent from virtually the entire plot once it's set in motion. For better or worse, I figured him out about 1/2 to 1/3 of the way through. Maybe I'm just slow and Berenson figured it was so obvious that it didn't need additional treatment. Second, the manner in which the antagonist's plot line is resolved, as well as the resolution of the entire novel left me wanting. I don't necessarily need everything tied up with a big red bow, but I do prefer the protagonist to be actively involved.

I'll certainly read more of Berenson's John Wells series. The teaser for the first in the series, The Faithful Spy, is enticing - "The only American ever to crack al Qaeda, John Wells has been undercover so long that the CIA is no longer sure he’s loyal – or even alive." Did I mention that Wells is a convert to Islam?

Berenson's website is

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