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The Paladin: A Spy Novel by David Ignatius

The Paladin: A Spy Novel (edition 2021)

by David Ignatius (Author)

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715296,474 (3.6)2
Title:The Paladin: A Spy Novel
Authors:David Ignatius (Author)
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (2021), 320 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Paladin by David Ignatius


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"I mean, that’s the secret, right? It isn’t the electronics. It’s the fact that people are so goddamn stupid.” So says a character in David Ignatius' timely and engrossing new book "The Paladin." Two of my big passions are journalism and computers and this book combines them in a way that was like candy to me. Ignatius is a skilled and veteran journalist and he always brings that level of factual undermining and organized thought to his books. His beat is the intelligence community and that pays off in the complexity of his stories and characters. There is no black and white here, in true LeCarre´ tradition everything is a shade of gray. The story starts out jumping between "current day" and incidents of 2 years earlier that totally changed the life of Michael Dunne, our main character. He does a great job of revealing the story from earlier in a way that lets you slowly begin to see what is going on. The last half of the book is all present day and percolates along to an interesting and satisfying conclusion. This all scares me though as it pertains to the way powerful people now use technology to fool people. With an election coming up I dread the fake videos that will be distributed, I'm already thinking of leaving Facebook until the election is over. But, as the lead quote says, the blame is not with the technology but with the people. And that is the scariest thing of all. ( )
  MarkMad | Jul 14, 2021 |
Fair espionage novel of a CIA agent double crossed with cybertechnology. A little above my knowledge but I appreciated the author's experience and inside knowledge of reporting on the CIA. It made it that much more believeable. ( )
  LivelyLady | Nov 8, 2020 |
I was predisposed to writing a good review for David Ignatius’ “Paladin” (PAL). I had read a number of his other novels, enjoyed them, generally gave them 4 star ratings. Additionally, I read Ignatius’ Washington Post columns all the time and catch many of his appearances on “Morning Joe” – and listen to his every word. So it pains me to say that I found PAL very boring, occasionally unreadable, and not worthy of a recommendation. I think even a two star rating is generous.

I won’t re-summarize the plot in any detail except to say that our hero, Michael Dunne, CIA operative, is doomed by his bosses for failure on a case, and winds up serving a year in jail. He vows revenge upon his release. The story, no big surprise, is told in a series of flashbacks, bouncing back and forth from before jail to after.

My first criticism is that I feel strongly that the story would have been more interesting if told chronologically. Why has “flashback” become the standard, and real time the exception – its way overdone and only contributes unnecessary complexity and confusion to this story.

Secondly, in the early days of computer crime, readers would learn a nugget or two of cyber wisdom and be satisfied; the plot was still key. In PAL and too many others of the day, the author is keen on demonstrating his knowledge and in going to great lengths to educate at least some of us on grad level material we know nothing about nor care to. And of course this must include a very heavy dose of social media features of the moment. But, if that isn’t enough, how about complicating the plot (what plot you may ask as you get further into this) with a heavy dose of Wall St. crime. Characters ?, dialog? tension? twists ? C’mon, you want that, too?! Duh, not here….. ( )
  maneekuhi | Jun 23, 2020 |
The Paladin by David Ignatius takes the reader on a thrill ride with the CIA, the FBI and the ever-changing world of high tech and high finance. Michael Dunne is assigned by the CIA to an undercover investigation of an Italian news group led by an American. There is evidence that secrets are being used illegally, However, Michael soon finds himself thrown to the wolves, charged with running a covert operation on Americans. No one speaks on his behalf and he is then sentenced to a year in prison, as his marriage falls apart and he loses custody of his young daughter. He has a long time to plot his revenge on the people who abandoned him at the worst time in his life. Upon his release, he sets in motion a plan to pursue his enemies, no matter what it takes. The Paladin is a high-energy narrative that will keep readers on the edge of their seat and will show how technology in the wrong hands and for the wrong purposes can lead to a world of trouble. Highly recommended. Thank you to W.W. Norton and NetGalley for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  carole888fort | Jun 5, 2020 |
The story alternates between 2016 (when the operation takes places) and 2018 (when Dunne tries to destroy his destroyers). Tension and suspense fill this well-developed plot. A few of the big "reveals" underwhelmed me, though, and there were a few lucky breaks that felt too convenient. It also felt strange that some of Dunne's former colleagues are willing to help him, even if they have to side-step legal issues to do this.

But the storyline spins so steadily, slowly rising toward the explosive climax, that I barely noticed. I was spun deeper into this web of deceit along with Dunne. So much feels real about this story: privacy violated, photos altered, whistleblowers-slash-traitors alternately applauded or condemned by others. Reality and fiction mingle in the novel until it is hard to know the difference.

Ignatius includes lots of insider details about the CIA. I can't confirm whether gauging a person's response to stressful questions is almost as reliable as a polygraph test. Or that a "Lemon Squeezer" used to be someone specializing in secret writing. Or how the class system of the CIA compares with a typical suburban high school (!) All I know is that Ignatius sounds convincing. Since he covered the CIA for the Washington Post for three decades, he knows more than the average person.

The Paladin isn't as heavy on the character development as I like. Besides Michael Dunne, few of the characters feel "real" to me. For example, his Afro-Brazilian wife feels like a 2D figure included to raise the emotional stakes, rather than a vital part of the story. What Dunne's betrayers do devastates her in many ways.

But as a look at the sophisticated ways technology influences our world, this book fascinates me. Videos and photos can be faked until it's impossible to tell the difference between the real and unreal. This is frightening, especially if people use it to provoke outrage or violence. In the book, those behind the fraudulent photos/videos exploit real issues (for example, anti-Semitism or racial violence) to further their agenda. "Seeing is believing" is no longer a safe option when what we see is unreal.

Recommended, especially for those who love spy thrillers. Thanks to WW Norton and Netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. ( )
  MeredithRankin | Mar 18, 2020 |
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