The Secret Soldier (A John Wells Novel)

Since the fall of the Soviet Union, fictional spies have floundered a bit, chasing bad guys here and there, some successfully, some not and most of them end up halfway between James Bond and Jack Ryan, the mix is usually not a good thing. Alex Berenson’s THE SECRET SOLDIER (A JOHN WELLS BOOK) is an exception to the rule. Not only is Wells a believable character, but Berenson’s story is gripping and well told and doesn’t get bogged down in the technical mire that can plague the modern thriller.

Retired from the CIA, Wells still takes on freelance work and this time his client is King Abdullah bin Abdul-Aziz, the king of Saudi Arabia. The king is worried his brother is behind recent terror attacks and is pushing to put his own son on the throne. Taking on the case, Wells soon finds himself deeply involved in plots and counter-plots, terrorists, counter-terrorist and good guys who might be bad and bad guys who might be good. The story rolls forward at the speed of an out of control train, and an ending that is (to use a hackneyed phrase) “ripped from the headlines.”

The Secret Soldier really offers nothing new by way of plot or even character; like fantasy the modern spy thriller is developing archetypes of its own. Berenson however writes in an engaging manner and does not get bogged down in over explaining either technology or the political events that are the driving force behind the story. Both of those factors can be a huge flaw in books of this type and happily Berenson avoids them. He does assume that the reader does have some knowledge of current events, but doesn’t spend hundreds of pages going over the intricacies of the political situation or, on the other end of the spectrum, how a satellite imaging system works.

It’s actually refreshing to settle in and just enjoy the ride. The Secret Soldier is one of those books. Wells is a likable character, and the longer I know him, the more he grows on me. Unlike some other author’s main characters, John Wells is not superhuman or, more to the point, super-annoying. He comes off as a real person and one I don’t mind spending time with.

The Secret Soldier, although part of a series, stands alone very well. If you haven’t discovered Alex Berenson, this is a good place to start. The story is solid, and as I said, it is an entertaining read. Even though it might seem like familiar territory for the genre, what sets this novel apart is Berenson’s uncanny grasp of the politics of the Middle East, and the ending is stunning in light of recent events.

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars | Publisher: Putnam Adult | Pages: 416 | Source: Publisher | Buy on Amazon

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