Saturday, May 12, 2018

Book Reviews: The Wolves

The Wolves
by Alex Berenson
This older book which I picked up on sale is, given President Trump's recent decision to violate the Iran nuclear deal at both the behest and joy of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, still a timely and very entertaining read. The book can be enjoyed strictly as a modern spy thriller or as a brief against excessive foreign entanglements.  I thought that the bad guy was very well characterized; the good guy was a bit less compelling. This is an installment in a series.

I was unfamiliar with the author before but I will be reading his other works. Don't worry. This book is virtually stand alone. The reader can follow the story without having read previous installments. The author does short judicious information dumps along the way to get the reader up to date and hopefully whet his appetite to read earlier books. So don't think that you can't read this book unless you've read the others. That is so not necessary. 

John Wells is an ex-CIA agent who is still in the game. A storm is on the way. Previously John Wells provided proof that the United States was being manipulated into war with Iran by rabid Zionist, casino billionaire mogul, dual Israeli-American citizen, and Presidential financial backer Aaron Duberman (think a barely fictionalized Sheldon Adelson). 

Wells and a few CIA agents barely prevented a war against Iran based on lies enthusiastically created and spread by Duberman. Duberman viewed Iran as an intolerable threat to Israel. He wanted the United States to attack and invade Iran. Duberman didn't care how many people died in this false flag operation. He thought the cost in lives would have been worth it. Wells went after Duberman but wasn't able to get him. Duberman fled to Israel where he feels he's untouchable. 

The President is embarrassed; he would prefer to forget about the whole incident. The CIA is interested in holding this debacle over the President's head as blackmail for political gain. John Wells doesn't care about politics. He just wants to cancel Duberman's ticket. It's personal. The men have previously tried to kill each other. One of the book's major themes is that Wells is weary of the big shots playing games with other people's lives, committing crimes and walking away without a care in the world. Wells intends to make Duberman pay no matter what. And the President had better not get in Wells' way.

When Duberman is forced to leave Israel thanks to American pressure, he flees with his children and supermodel Israeli wife to China, where he owns casinos and hotels in Hong Kong and Macao. Duberman also takes along a number of former IDF and/or Mossad operatives as bodyguards.  Some of these men are little more than state trained thugs; other have an intense sense of honor and duty, even as they realize that Duberman doesn't. Duberman knows Wells is coming for him. Duberman would like nothing more than to watch Wells die. Complicating matters Duberman's and Wells' feud has come to the attention of foreign intelligence agencies with their own interests and goals, most of which don't line up with those of the United States. Despite what he thinks, Duberman is not the biggest or meanest shark in the sea. Cash is not the only currency of power.

This was an exciting novel that delves into how men, women and nations use power and the costs of doing so. There's a fair bit of diplomatic and intelligence derring do. We see the difference between the high minded values that nations claim to follow and the dirty deviant deeds done in the dark. Although Duberman is the villain the author shows how a successful man can sell a little bit of his soul each year until he finds himself doing things he never thought he would even consider. Duberman never sees himself as the bad guy. Berenson humanizes Duberman while never letting you forget that the man is slimy. Wells is more of a cipher here than Duberman. Wells is a religious man. He is a Muslim, something that caused him problems in the reactionary CIA. Wells wants to take out Duberman but may be losing his taste for violence, something that can be dangerous in his line of work.  This book is just over 400 pages or so but it neither drags nor rushes.
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