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The Shadow Patrol (A John Wells Novel) (edition 2012)

by Alex Berenson

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1692770,359 (3.85)9
Member:clsnyder
Title:The Shadow Patrol (A John Wells Novel)
Authors:Alex Berenson
Info:Putnam Adult (2012), Hardcover, 400 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:None

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The Shadow Patrol by Alex Berenson

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A killer is on the loose . . .

In 2009, the CIA officers in Afghanistan's Kabul Station received information from a reliable source regarding the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. But when they followed the informant to bin Laden's apparent location, they discovered it was a deadly trap. The man blew himself up, taking the chief of station and several senior officers with him.

Two years later, the station still hasn't recovered and the situation has deteriorated. Every initiative meets with failure. No one knows who to trust. In desperation, John Wells' old CIA bosses ask him to go over and investigate. Reluctantly, Wells agrees but what he finds when he gets there is more than a station in disarray. There is a full-blown military drug-smuggling operation underway, and worse, a traitor is leaking information to the Taliban. Americans are dying, and an American is responsible - and this is just the beginning. Only Wells stands in the traitor's way . . . for now.

-------------------------------------------------​
By ADAM LeBOR
NYT
March 15, 2013

Berenson, a former New York Times reporter, won the 2007 Edgar Award for best first novel by an American author for “The Faithful Spy,” his first book featuring Wells. In subsequent volumes, Wells grew into a complex and satisfying protagonist, tackling bad guys across the world’s conflict zones. “The Shadow Patrol,” Wells’s previous appearance, sent him to Afghanistan after a suicide bomber blew up several senior C.I.A. officials, a plot inspired by an attack that actually happened in December 2009.

Berenson’s strength is his deep understanding of geopolitics and of the shoddy compromises it demands. Here he deftly portrays the contradictions of the international aid industry, which is just as prone to waste, corruption and egotistic ­empire-building as its profit-oriented rivals. The self-aggrandizing director of WorldCares/ChildrenFirst, the novel’s fictional aid agency, is especially well drawn. The details of the C.I.A.’s operations and its bureaucratic infighting are also convincing, as is Wells’s planning and execution of his mission. Berenson clearly has excellent contacts in the world of shadows.

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Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on February 27, 2012

If you are a fan of thriller fiction and Alex Berenson is not on your “must read” list, then you need to take the first step toward remedying that state of affairs by reading THE SHADOW PATROL. Berenson’s series of espionage thrillers featuring (now former) CIA agent John Wells are among the most well-written, carefully researched and meticulously plotted novels one is likely to encounter in any genre. Over the course of five books, Wells has penetrated al Qaeda, prevented at least two world wars, and short-circuited terrorist attacks on American soil.

This would be the stuff of fancy in the hands of a less-talented author. But Berenson has that rare ability that renders his characters --- and the events they create --- a part of the real world. At times, Berenson has seemed almost prescient in his creation of events. Wells, his mainstay character, is memorable not only for his skill set but also for the contradictions that form his core. Raised as a Christian who then converted to Islam, Wells seems an unlikely agent for our times. A firm believer but not a strong practitioner of the faith, he knows all too well the frequently hostile territory he treads. Though retired from the CIA, Wells continues to find himself being drawn back, however reluctantly, into the dangerous world of spy craft for the best and worst of reasons: it is what he is, and it is what he does.

In THE SHADOW PATROL, the sixth and newest book in the series, Wells is transported to the American front lines in Afghanistan, a country where his career in espionage began. This time, though, he is tasked with “infiltrating” the CIA’s Kabul station. Years before, the station was attacked by a suicide bomber, leaving all of its senior officers dead. The station still has not fully recovered; worse, there is some concern that the Taliban has somehow infiltrated the station. Wells enters Kabul in his own identity, ostensibly to generally evaluate the station and its personnel, while quietly looking for signs that the station has been compromised. He is met, for the most part, with a veneer of cooperation and barely-concealed hostility.

It is only when he makes contact with enlisted men on the base that Wells begins to make headway, uncovering a plot that stretches from Chicago to Karachi and back again. He finds himself up against any number of dangerous characters, with the worst being those who are at his back. The hills of Afghanistan are full of deceit, lies and treachery, all of it concealing layer upon layer of a plot whose seeds were sown years before in tragedy. Beset at the end from all sides, Wells has nowhere to go but forward, even as the number of people he can trust slowly but steadily dwindles.

Berenson is a master of creating complex yet comprehensible plots that move the reader steadily through an increasingly dangerous maze. At the same time, he understands his territory at any number of different levels. His criticisms of US foreign policy have always been thoughtful and measured --- those hoping for reflexive mad-dog attacks are advised to go elsewhere --- and this is particularly true in his latest novel. His portrait of men, both good and bad, in conflict is first rate; in fact, his psychological description of a sniper who perhaps has been in the field too long is worth the price of admission all by itself.

Berenson is one of the very few authors whose work I deliberately read at a slow, measured pace for the best of reasons: I don’t want the latest book, whatever it might be, to end. I found myself doing this yet again while reading THE SHADOW PATROL. There is no higher praise I can give it than that. ( )
  meadcl | Apr 6, 2014 |
The (unfortunate) uneveness of Berenson's stories continues. With The Shadow Patrol, the entire premise just didn't seem to be that engaging and for the first chunk of the book, the reader is left with a sort of "ho hum" or "why bother" feeling. As the story progressed, it became more interesting, but several sections just seemed not to fit terribly well into the overall story. Most unfortunate, I suppose, is that I was able to identity "the bad guy" about three pages after the character was first mentioned so there was little surprise. With that said, this was an interesting portrayal of what military life in Afghanistan is like. ( )
  MSWallack | Apr 22, 2013 |
First book I have read by this author. I would read other books by author with same character.
  shazjhb | Mar 10, 2013 |
Book 6, in the John Wells series

Alex Berenson excels in creating a meticulously plotted novel in which his protagonist, John Wells, is not only memorable for his skills but also for the man he turned out to be. He is given well-known human frailties, makes mistakes and occasionally finds himself in the middle of sticky situations but always manages to come out with only minor scratches and the same driving force he went in with. The writer’s portrayal of Afghanistan, its people, their cultures and politics and their country side in general goes a long way in creating an atmosphere in this novel.

The story opens when CIA headquarters in Afghanistan are blown up by a suicide bomber, killing all the top staff. The ensuing investigation uncovers the bomber’s identity to be a trusted Afghani worker. John Wells is summoned to oversee how this person could have slipped by security and to flush out any other sleeper agents that may have infiltrated their ranks. Early on in the investigation, rumours circulate that there are possibly some U.S. soldiers that have been lured into the drug smuggling trade and their actions may have compromised security. His undercover role leads him to the Kandahar Air base and a team of Delta Special Force soldiers. When the renegade soldiers and the Taliban find out there is an investigator hot on their trail, John soon find himself with a big target on his back and no place to hide.

The writing is fast-paced with a thin thread of humour throughout. Although well-crafted the story wasn’t as gripping or as captivating as in the past. Unfortunately the sub-plot did little to hype the suspense and was quickly lost in the background but nevertheless there are no signs that this series is running out of steam ( )
  Tigerpaw70 | Jun 30, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Much better book than I had expected. It wasn't laced with the typical neo-con nonsense usually associated with these types of thrillers. John Wells seemed like an interesting character although a little farfetched in his beliefs and attitudes. I'll definitely read the next one in the series. ( )
  Doondeck | Apr 9, 2012 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0399158294, Hardcover)

In 2009, the CIA's Kabul Station fell for a source who promised to lead it to Bin Laden, but instead he blew himself up, taking the station's most senior officers with him. Now, more than two years later, the station is still floundering, agents are dying, and at Langley the CIA's chiefs wonder if the unthinkable has happened, if somehow the Taliban has infiltrated the station.

When they ask John Wells to investigate, he reluctantly agrees to return to the country where his career as an undercover operative began. But there, he finds a vipers' nest of hostility and mistrust-and clues that hint at a drug-trafficking operation involving the Agency, the military, and the Taliban. Americans are dying, and an American is responsible. And only John Wells stands in his way . . . for now.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:41:27 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

John Wells, an undercover operative for the CIA, travels to Kabul to investigate a drug trafficking operation that involves the agency, the military, and the Taliban.

(summary from another edition)

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