Book Blurb: Throughout the 1970’s and ‘80’s, salafi terrorist groups increasingly target American personnel, civilians and facilities across the globe. The American reaction – as perceived by its adversaries – is weak and ineffective.
Following a succession of such terror attacks, in 1996 a massive truck bomb strikes the USAF facility at Khobar Towers in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The act kills nineteen Americans and wounds hundreds of others. Angered and frustrated, the U.S. Government determines to strike back. In response the National Security Council turns to a covert Special Activity that is known only to cleared insiders as the Org.
The NSC directs the Org to launch an extremely hazardous, long-term HUMINT agent penetration of a radical jihadist group. The goal? To prevent any future such attacks against American interests. And to do so at any cost.
What are the odds?
Review: I’m leery of stories that open with a scene from somewhere in Act Three, then spend all of Acts One and Two setting up that scene. It’s usually a cheap stunt to keep the reader (or viewer, in the case of a movie) hooked until something else happens.
But sometimes it works.
It certainly worked in the movie “Limitless” and it definitely works in Sheehan’s spy thriller.
The full title, by the way, is The Supplicant…to place a spy in the councils of the enemy…, and that’s the entire thrust of the story.
The author makes pains to state, both on the Amazon page and as part of the front piece of the book, that “The views expressed by the author do not necessarily reflect those of the State Department, nor of the U.S. Government.”
And with good reason.
Regis P. Sheehan is, currently, chief of the Counterintelligence Division of the State Department. I’m a natural sceptic, so I checked.
He is. Which leads me to think he may know a thing or two about that which he writes. And it comes across on the page.
The story opens with a brutal interrogation session. The reader doesn’t know who, why or where and the author takes us on a painstakingly detailed trip over the decade leading up to that point. One wonders (I certainly did) how close reality comes to what we read.
The world is pre-9/11. Islamic terrorists are making their views known in their usual way and the American intelligence community is grasping at mere wisps of hints of what may be next.
The author does a very good job of placing us in the moment, from Islamic communities in South Africa to the former Yugoslavia, and onward to a frantic emergency extraction operation in north Africa. Timely hints of Mali?
The author’s background provides a level of detail, and believability, I’ve not seen in a spy thriller in a long time, and definitely not in an independently published novel.
I’m very comfortable giving this a solid 4.5 stars. A few errant typos keep it from perfection (the most jarring being ‘capitol’ for capital’).
If you want a fast-paced “inside-look” feeling spy novel, “The Supplicant” will deliver.