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THE BANK OF FEAR by David Ignatius


by David Ignatius

Pub Date: June 22nd, 1994
ISBN: 0-688-13136-0
Publisher: Morrow/HarperCollins

 This book is the third (after Siro, 1991, and Agents of Influence, 1987) in Ignatius's cycle on America and the Middle East. A read-in-one-sitting thriller with a philosophical streak, it's also a modern-day Robin Hood story in which Maid Marian fights and Robin Hood has his political consciousness raised. Marian is Iraqi Lina Alwan, a ``trusted employee'' at an Iraqi front company in London. Her boss is the corrupt and virtually unassailable Nasir Hammoud. Sam Hoffman, the son of a retired CIA agent, is Robin Hood, and he wants to stay out of dirty politics. Hoffman unwittingly gets Alwan into trouble. Once she is out of Hammoud's good graces, she must destroy him or be destroyed. But Alwan cannot bring herself to accept the warrior's mantle until the body count rises beyond even her fearful tolerance. She goes underground and becomes the key instrument in the undoing of the government that backs Hammoud. Meanwhile, Hoffman has to fend off his father and the Mossad. Ignatius, assistant managing editor for the Washington Post, spent years in the Middle East as a correspondent for the Wall Street Journal. His knowledge of Arab culture enables him to vivify the world of Iraqis living abroad as he captures all its elaborate manners, refinements in psychological torture (the parachuting episode is an especially creative example), and erotic flamboyance. At the same time he uses his knowledge of international finance to counterpoint the chase plot with the suspenseful elements of encrypted passwords, numerous Swiss bank accounts, and a slippery $158 million. Ignatius is both artist and craftsman. Lina Alwan is an unforgettable hero; the send-up of the CIA (especially Hoffman Sr.'s history lesson at the end) is hysterical; and the depiction of the Iraqis offers a glimpse into a dark and mysterious power that affects us more than we know.