Berenson, Alex. The Faithful Spy. Random. Apr. 2006. c340p. ISBN 0-345-47899-1. $24.95. Fiction.

John Wells, a CIA special operations agent, was the first Westerner to graduate from the al Qaeda camps near Kandahar. After years spent fighting undercover in Afghanistan and Chechyna, he has been sent home to execute an unknown mission. Now a Muslim and a harsh judge of America’s decadence, he finds that his CIA handlers no longer trust him. Even worse, neither does his Pakistani contact, an expert bomber who has prepared a series of devastating attacks on major U.S. cities. When Wells escapes from the CIA safe house where he is being interrogated, no one knows whether this double spy will stop a planned attack or help carry it out. In his debut thriller, investigative reporter Berenson has come up with an intriguing premise. However, when a plot adheres this closely to today’s headlines, the novel’s characters need to be truly convincing and the suspense ratcheted up a step, or else one might as well be reading a newspaper. The threats with which this thriller deals—fertilizer bombs, the plague, anthrax—are all too common, and a tepid romance that seems to have no real foundation adds little to the mix. Well written, but pretty standard stuff.

LJ, 131, no. 6 (April 1, 2006), 80.

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