Tag Archives: john wells

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.

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Book Review: The Wolves

I really like the fact Alex Berenson writes literary thrillers. In my opinion, Daniel Silva and Berenson are the best in this genre.

The quality of the writing isn’t the only thing that sets apart the John Wells series from others such as Mitch Rapp and Scot Harvath—Berenson has gotten away from using the “doomsday scenario” involving WMDs and Muslim terrorists in every novel, and instead his plots are intelligent and far more subtle.

In The Wolves, it begins as a simple quest for vengeance. It follows The Counterfeit Agent and Twelve Days as the third book in a series arc centered on billionaire Aaron Duberman. The brief summary: Duberman, who is Jewish but an American citizen, tried to use stolen nuclear materials to start a war between Iran and America. His motivation was to protect Israel from a nuclear Iran.

The Wolves begins after Wells, with help from Ellis Shafer (CIA) and Vinny Duto (former CIA, now a senator), foil the plot. But now the president—who had been sucked in by Duberman’s subterfuge—is protecting himself by hiding the truth from the public, and as a result Duberman gets to skate unpunished for his actions.

Wells decides to go after Duberman on his own. The plot, however, quickly escalates as it morphs into something far more sinister than simple vengeance—and Wells becomes ensnared in a game of cat-and-mouse with politicians and spies from China, Russia and the U.S. … and it all unfolds on the streets of Hong Kong.

Berenson offers a portrait of a warrior who is tired of doing “the right thing” only to come home to politicians bent only on staying in power. Wells is a conflicted protagonist, with emotions and actions and dialogue that are brilliantly written—and the result is an incredibly satisfying novel.

I have just one complaint about this book—someone on the editing team at Putnam really messed up on the Kindle edition (and probably in the print as well, though I haven’t seen it). I found at least seven or eight glaring typos / editing mistakes—and it’s not like I was even looking for them. In one instance, the wrong name was attributed to dialogue. In another, extra quotation marks were randomly included in the middle of a sentence. There were several others, and while I don’t normally get hung up on such things, it’s not like this is an Indie publisher or amateur author.

This is an imprint of Random House.

I’m sure they’ll fix the Kindle edition fast and upload a new version to Amazon, but as someone who really loves this series, the fact the mistakes even exist in the first place is incredibly annoying—because for whatever reason Alex Berenson’s books have never reached the same level of success as some of his contemporaries in the same genre. Maybe I’m reading too much into things, but if Putnam were really betting on Berenson and this series, then wouldn’t they put a better team of editors etc. on this book? Anyway, that’s my two cents.

As for the book, it’s a must-read. Long-time fans should love it, and the backstory is told sufficiently well that if you haven’t read the previous books you should still enjoy this one.

5/5 stars.

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