Sunday, December 27, 2015

"The Wolves" by Alex Berenson takes the character John Wells to a darker place and I didn't care for it

This is Book #10 in the author's John Wells series of spy thrillers.  John Wells is a CIA agent (and later a deniable independent contractor for the CIA) who has spent most of his career infiltrating terrorist cells in Afghanistan and similar countries.  Along the way he converted to Islam -- his religious beliefs and practices form a distinct part of his character.  And like most "lone wolf" spy novel protagonists, he has a complicated personal and romantic life.

I haven't read all of the John Wells books but of the several I have read, this one was my least favorite.  The storyline follows directly from the previous book in the series, "Twelve Days," so you probably should read that book first to understand the context of how the characters relate to each other.

This book is almost the complete opposite of Twelve Days in tone and pace.  The pace in Twelve Days was frantic with Wells going from country to country -- Europe, Russian, Middle East, Africa -- in a very short period of time to try to keep the United States from being tricked into entering a war with Iran.  And it was heavy on the violence as well.  This book starts when events have had a little time to calm down and because there is not a deadline, the action moves more slowly from place to place and even within a set location.  The level of violence is significantly lower in this book, as is the degree to which Wells's physical ability to carry out his mission and escape from tight situations stretches the bounds of believability.  For the most part, Wells doesn't pull off physically improbable stunts.

However, instead of being about saving the United States, the story in this book is all about revenge.  I didn't like that part of the book -- it made the character of John Wells even darker than he has been throughout the series.

One interesting part was how much time the reader spends inside the heads of the bad guys.  They aren't just caricatures but fully formed people who justify their own actions.

If you like this series and this character, you most likely will enjoy this book as well.  I didn't care for the particular focus of this book, but it was still a fairly entertaining read.  Even though this book was merely OK for me 3 stars out of 5), I would still read the next book in the series.

I received an ARC free from the Amazon Vine program in exchange for a review.

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