INTELLIGENCE by Susan Hasler


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The gifted members of a governmental think tank try to fight the system, and lose, in Hasler’s debut.

There’s a whole school of writers who graduated from government work to thriller-writing, from Ian Fleming all the way to modern-day novelists like Francine Matthews. Former CIA counterterrorism analyst Hasler adeptly joins her many colleagues who apply their murky knowledge to fiction. The book, containing a ferocious dose of black humor, features an ensemble of cynical, borderline psychotic spooks and analysts. Among the agents exiled to “The Mines” are Doc Hartman, the disgruntled senior member of the group; Vivi Fields, a retro-garbed empath with a heart of gold; and Fran Monroe, a networking specialist with a crush on Doc. Everyone gets a turn at telling their part of the story, including a terrorist known only as “A Voice With Many Names.” The most acidly funny character is Maddie James, self-described bomb dissector and counterterrorism alchemist. Following a massive 2001 attack called the Strikes and her divorce from Doc’s son, Maddie is railing against the system to which she is unavoidably vital. “What do these people have for brains?” she cries. “‘Intelligence community’? What intelligence? I tell them something’s going to blow up and they look at me like I’m hallucinating.” Despite her reticence, Maddie continues to lead her colleagues in tracking an inbound cell of terrorists, dubbed “The Perfumers” by the crew of The Mines. With an attack on Washington, D.C., imminent, the counterterrorist team is faced with a problem as old as government itself. “Wolves and warning,” Doc muses. “How to negotiate that thread that stretches between crying wolf and failing to warn? Warn too often and no one listens. Fail to warn, and reap the bloody consequences.”

A smart, blackhearted comedy whose generic title does disservice to an outrageous cast of characters.

Pub Date: June 1st, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-312-57603-5
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 2010