Book Review: The Prisoner

“better safe than headless”

I’m on Alex Berenson’s email list, and when he sent a message to his readers that John Wells was “back undercover in the Muslim world” I immediately went to Amazon and pre-ordered.

I was excited, but also a little worried.

Wells is a great character. Berenson is an incredibly gifted writer. But of late, a number of usually reliable thriller authors have used the Jack Bauer “24” method of going undercover with disastrous consequences (e.g. I have serious reservations about buying any future Scot Harvath books). I felt Berenson was right on target with his idea – I can’t imagine any fan of John Wells not wanting to read about him going undercover in Afghanistan for a second time – but I feared the worst, that Wells would morph into a bad superhero caricature and Berenson would have ruined a great series.

Now that I’ve read the book, I apologize to Mr. Berenson – sorry I doubted you. This is the best post-9/11 thriller I’ve ever read. In fact, it might be the best thriller I’ve ever read, period.

It begins with a CIA mission in ISIS territory. Hence, this great line from one of the operators: “better safe than headless.” After the mission, it’s clear that someone is giving sensitive intelligence to ISIS. Shafer and Wells – with support from President Duto – launch a bold plan to uncover the mole, and what unfolds is nothing short of mesmerizing.

Berenson takes readers on a vivid, surreal journey with pacing and prose that are masterfully executed and a plot that is all too real and terrifying. Berenson has clearly been to Afghanistan and the other dangerous / exotic locales used in the book – for no one could carry a reader down this path so well unless he first traveled it himself.

The book builds to a frenetic pace, and then Berenson cranks it up even more as it turns into a race against the clock to stop ISIS from carrying out an attack that rivals 9/11.

If you enjoy thrillers, read this book. If you really enjoy thrillers that also fall into the “literary” category, then you absolutely need to be reading Alex Berenson. I used to say no one writes that category better than Daniel Silva, but I think Berenson is at the top now.

Read this book – I highly recommend it, 5/5 stars.

Use this affiliate link to read more about The Prisoner on Amazon.

Bangkok’s Grand Palace

Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej died in October after seven decades on the throne. The Grand Palace is an amazing site that includes both the Temple of the Emerald Buddha and Wat Pho — but my visit today felt surreal for another reason: the complex continues to be flooded daily with mourners for Thailand’s late king. It’s a difficult time for Thailand, but as a foreigner it’s a fascinating time to be here.

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Do Justice

I love the old testament adage to “do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly.” As someone who used to be a teacher and still consults with international schools, I work hard to model these tenets when I interact with students.

For the most part I work with teachers and students who languish in countries riddled with poverty and corruption. The kids walk to school alongside streets that reek of hopelessness and despair.

I meet local teachers who get paid on average $4 to $6 per day to work at international schools alongside foreign-born teachers who make more than $200 per day for doing the exact same job — and yet the local teachers are gracious and appreciative for anything I can do to help them.

It’s usually that way with the foreign teachers as well.

However, in recent weeks I’ve had occasion to butt heads with a foreign born teacher who has pretty much declared war on her students, colleagues, and administrators. I can’t find any rational reason for her behavior.

And now, she’s apparently declared war on me as well.

Everything I’ve done here has been to help kids. But I’m just passing through. I could let it go easy enough. I probably should let it go.

But the kids, right?

Here’s the thing: most people like the “love mercy” and “walk humbly” but shy away from “do justice.”

I don’t think it’s something you can pick and choose. I think you have to go all in, or find a new mantra. For sure I don’t want to live in a world where people with twisted hearts hold profound influence over our students while good people stand aside and do nothing.

Which is why tonight I read some from The Art of War —

Let your plans be dark and impenetrable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt … Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.

— and why tomorrow I will return the favor, and “do justice.”