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Posted on Nov 19, 2006 in Books and Movies, Front Page Features

The Faithful Spy – Book Review

By Richard N Story

faithfulspy.jpgBook Review: The Faithful Spy: A Novel
Random House, 2006, Paperback

John Wells lived in and was conflicted by two different worlds. A deep undercover agent for the CIA; John had successfully penetrated al Qaeda. But he had apparently gone native and had fully immersed himself into Islam. Then he was given a mission to return to the United States and help with the next great plot by al Qaeda to destabilize the United States with a catastrophic blow in the name of Allah and Muslims everywhere. Whose loyalty did John hold higher? Could he walk the tightrope between the two conflicting loyalties? How many people would die, or live, with his choices?


The book opens with the destruction of the Taliban at the hands of the United States military and John Wells’ own squad by deliberately sacrificing them at the hands of Special Forces troops working with the Northern Alliance. John Wells makes brief contact to send a cryptic message to his handlers and to go back under cover. No further word was received raising doubts at the Agency if he had been turned or not. More doubts were raised when al Qaeda makes two more attacks on the United States while John was in the United States at al Qaeda’s orders. By not making contact with the Agency and the Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF) before the attacks; John’s loyalties were further questioned. In the meantime, John had to allay the suspicions of the al Qaeda leadership that he was a loyal member. The book comes to an explosive climax in New York City as in one way or another John Wells finally proves where his loyalties lay.

Faithful Spy by Alex Berenson is a fast paced novel written by an investigative reporter for the New York Times. Berenson lived and worked in Iraq while attached to the 1st BN, 5th Cavalry Regiment. It was during this time that learned about how the Muslim mind worked in viewing the United States and the West as he was worked with the translators, Iraqi police and those Iraqi civilians that he interviewed. It is the scenes in Iraq and the Middle East that ring the truest in the book. The action in the book takes place from such far off locations as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq to the megalopolises of New York and Los Angeles and from Atlanta to the outback of Montana. Besides John Wells the cast of characters include al Qaeda leaders Osama Bin-Laden, Ayman al-Zawahiri, Omar Khadri and CIA agent Jennifer Exley.

The advanced reader’s edition of the book was flawless from a technical aspect. There were no grammatical flaws nor were there any spelling errors. The pacing was good, but did drag a bit when introducing the romantic element between Jennifer Exley and John Wells. Character development was good with no extraneous attention to detail that tends to bog down the story line. However the only character that seems to have been fully fleshed out from the beginning was John Wells. The two lead secondary characters Omar Khadri and Jennifer Exley are fleshed out more than the average character in the book, but still lack the completeness and fully fleshed out detail of John Wells. All the other characters appear in the story merely to move the story forward or to be window dressing to the scene. One aspect of the writing that was appealing was that the reader was not thrust into an omnipotent position in that except for John Wells and the two leading characters the motivation and hidden thoughts of the bit players are never revealed to the reader other than what John Wells, Omar Khadri and Jennifer Exley could determine from conversation and body language.

Faithful Spy is priced at $24.95 for a hardback cover. This book is highly recommended for anybody who is interested in a good espionage thriller or just wants to learn what makes the Muslim extremist tick. Faithful Spy does for al Qaeda what The Eagle Has Landed did for the IRA. It puts a face on the invisible foe and supplies the world the motivations of these organizations.

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