In Bond’s (Killing Maine, 2015, etc.) latest thriller, an intelligence operative spends decades immersed in America’s struggle with Islamic terrorists.
Jack is on a CIA mission in Afghanistan in 1982 to aid the Afghan opposition to Soviet invaders. But he has a personal investment, too: under his previous cover as a Peace Corps volunteer, he’d taught kids at a local village and became a blood brother to teacher Ahmad. The Americans supply the Afghans with missiles to take down Soviet helicopters, but later, after alliances shift, the CIA works to prevent a truce between the Soviet Union and Afghanistan. When the Islamic Jihad terrorist group bombs the U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, the agency sends Jack to Lebanon to gather intel. What he learns is staggering: the bombing was reputedly in retaliation for the American bombardment of Beirut villages—which was itself retribution for the terrorist bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Lebanon earlier that year. As the years pass, Jack gets involved with Sophie Dassault, who’d saved his life while she was working for Doctors without Borders. But he can’t escape the cycle of violence; in 1986, he travels to Paris to stop an Algerian terrorist that he’d once trained. The American government, meanwhile, may be helping certain terrorist groups by allowing them to thrive unchecked. Bond’s epic novel is packed with historical references, including a mention of Osama bin Laden long before the events of 9/11; an opening prologue set in 2015 ensures that the narrative spans more than 30 years. Overall, the story maintains a provocative, intelligent tone rather than indulging in garish conspiracies—despite its allusions to nefarious deeds by various presidential administrations. Jack himself is the true focus of the narrative, and Bond shows how he blames himself for the violence as much as he does the higher-ups; he sums it up best by saying, “We’re just boys playing war.” Other characters, from a Soviet officer to an Afghan warlord (who’s also Ahmad’s brother), provide perspective and steer the plot clear of easy definitions of good and evil. There’s also profundity at times, especially regarding the futility of vengeance; at one point, Jack even suggests that truly avenging someone is an impossible feat.
An exhilarating spy novel that offers equal amounts of ingenuity and intrigue.