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The Night Ranger (A John Wells Novel) (original 2013; edition 2013)

by Alex Berenson

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1572576,038 (3.86)5
Member:rufusraider
Title:The Night Ranger (A John Wells Novel)
Authors:Alex Berenson
Info:Putnam Adult (2013), Hardcover, 400 pages
Collections:Read but unowned
Rating:****
Tags:fiction, thriller, espionage, terrorism

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The Night Ranger by Alex Berenson (2013)

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International Aid
‘The Night Ranger,’ by Alex Berenson
By ADAM LeBOR
Published: March 15, 2013

This is the seventh outing for Alex Berenson’s central character, John Wells, and the mileage is starting to show. Although “The Night Ranger” is skillfully engineered, its action hero feels distinctly weary.

Berenson’s opening scenes could come straight from the evening news. Four young Americans working at a giant refugee camp for Somalis in Dadaab, Kenya, decide to head to Lamu, an island off the coast, for a short holiday. They never arrive: kidnapped by bandits, they’re taken to Somalia. Their best hope for rescue will be John Wells, the only American spy to infiltrate the high reaches of Al Qaeda.

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.

But the human factor is far less successful, at least where Wells is concerned. The hero of a good thriller should have a personal stake in the mission’s success, but Wells’s heart never seems to be in this one. Like his attachment to Islam, the faith he has adopted, his connection to the mission — a request by his estranged son, Evan, who is friendly with the sister of one of the captives — feels cursory.

Gwen Murphy, the kidnapped American in question, is sexy, blond and not especially smart, enjoying casual hookups with a buff, confident colleague. In Somalia, Gwen soon becomes addicted to miraa, the local stimulant of choice, and forms a perhaps equally strong bond with Wizard, the warlord holding her and her friends hostage. Surprisingly, it is Wizard, rather than Wells, who becomes the book’s most interesting character. Perhaps because he struggles with a Somali warlord’s version of the worries familiar to any chief executive: how to keep the loyalty of his personnel; how to gain the maximum financial advantage from his situation without compromising his principles; how to keep control of his territory.

Annoyingly, the most significant plot twist is revealed less than halfway through. And the climax comes with a queasy gore-fest as Wells slashes a Somali’s neck so the “bright red arterial blood pumped out,” then severs another man’s spinal cord “in one vicious stroke.” Like a holdover from the age of Kipling, he dispatches inconvenient natives with swift and manly blows. Yet John Wells is also very much a man for his own time, for the age of “collateral ­damage.” ( )
  meadcl | Sep 7, 2014 |
Book 7, in the John Wells series

This series is wonderful and has stayed strong with idea and action stemming right from the news. This time, John our action hero after tackling bad guys across the world’s conflict zone may seem to be a bit weary but is no less as complex and satisfying protagonist. In “The Night Ranger” he enters new territory and goes underground in East Africa to track four kidnapped aid workers for WorldCares, deal with the thugs and rescue them.

What makes this series exciting is the author’s deep understanding of geopolitics and what makes it tick. In this one he deftly portrays how the aid industry is prone to waste and corruption. His fictional aid agency is well- drawn to show how an egotistic director could possible profit from being at the head. This story is a fast read with plenty of action that weaves both the complexities of politics and the everyday life in Africa. The prose is taut, the dialogue first class, so smooth. I love the characterization even the bad guys had strong personalities and they are supplied with all the modern gadgetry to entertain us.

This series is not boring or has become stale. The plots are exciting and fun to read there are no dull moments, a sure way to keep us interesting from start to finish. This novel is hard to put down it is so grabbing. Loved it. ( )
  Tigerpaw70 | Jul 17, 2014 |
The lead character in this book, John Wells, is on my list of fave guys, along with Jack Reacher, John Corey and several others. Once again, an action-filled adventure with Wells getting into situations that you may find inescapable. Does he successfully complete this latest assignment? Give it a read to find out. If you like down and dirty action, you'll love this one. ( )
  ewhatley | Feb 26, 2014 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
Four recent college grads of greater than average density have come to Kenya as volunteers to work in a camp for refugees from the troubles in Somalia. After several weeks of toil with the troubled, they decide to take a day off, jump in a jeep, and waft out into the countryside to have a look-see. Their assumption that politics here is, as at home, practiced by rich dudes with nothing else to do, is challenged in short order when they find themselves confronted by a collection of small black holes, each at the wrong end of an AK-47 held by a hungry looking Somali bandit. The father of one of the captured boobs knows a hard character named John Wells and asks him, as a favor, to bop on over there and perform an extraction. As usual, things are more complicated then they seem. ( )
  Kinch | Oct 11, 2013 |
Loved this audiobook. Excellent main character. Will be looking for more of these books! ( )
  Dianekeenoy | May 12, 2013 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 039915972X, Hardcover)

John Wells enters new territory, as he goes underground in East Africa to track four kidnapped Americans and the Somali bandits who snatched them, in the tough, thoughtful, electrifying new novel from the #1 New York Times-bestselling author.

Four friends, recent college graduates, travel to Kenya to work at a giant refugee camp for Somalis. Two men, two women, each with their own reasons for being there. But after twelve weeks, they’re ready for a break and pile into a Land Cruiser for an adventure.

They get more than they bargained for. Bandits hijack them. They wake up in a hut, hooded, bound, no food or water. Hostages. As a personal favor, John Wells is asked to try to find them, but he does so reluctantly. East Africa isn’t his usual playing field. And when he arrives, he finds that the truth behind the kidnappings is far more complex than he imagined.

The clock is ticking. The White House is edging closer to an invasion of Somalia. Wells has a unique ability to go undercover, and to make things happen, but if he can’t find the hostages soon, they’ll be dead – and the U.S. may be in a war it never should have begun.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:20:19 -0400)

When four friends, working at a giant refugee camp in Kenya for Somalis, are hijacked by bandits, John Wells, brought in to find them, goes undercover in a country that isn't his usual playing field where he discovers that the truth behind the kidnappings is far more complex than he imagined.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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