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Body of Lies: A Novel Hardcover – April 17, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Displaying his trademark expertise and writing skill, Washington Post columnist Ignatius (Agents of Innocence) has crafted one of the best post-9/11 spy thrillers yet. Subtly framing a highly elaborate plot, Ignatius tells the story of idealistic CIA agent Roger Ferris, newly stationed in Jordan after being wounded in Iraq. After a failed initiative to flush out a terrorist mastermind known as Suleiman, Ferris, who's dedicated to forestalling further al-Qaeda attacks, develops an intricate scheme modeled after a British plan used successfully against the Nazis. Ferris's plot to turn the terrorists against each other by sowing seeds of suspicion that their leaders are collaborating with the Americans puts his personal life in turmoil and threatens his professional relationship with the head of Jordanian intelligence. Few readers will anticipate the jaw-dropping conclusion, and the pairing of first-rate espionage suspense with fully developed characters should propel this onto the bestseller lists and possibly attract Hollywood interest. Author tour. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

David Ignatius, journalist and author of Agents of Innocence, has used his vast knowledge of Middle Eastern politics to write one of the most compelling post-9/11 spy thrillers. While creating psychologically deep characters and painting rich portraits of life in Iraq, Jordan, and Syria, he narrates a fast-paced search for a terrorist. A few critics noted, however, that Ignatius bends over backwards not to stereotype his Arab characters (most are wise; few are anti-Semitic), while blatantly criticizing American foreign affairs. Despite these flaws, "One hopes that he has another book in the planning stage and is already filling in form DS-4085, requesting yet more visa pages for his well-worn passport" (Washington Post).

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (April 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393065030
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393065039
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.2 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (103 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,160,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

David Ignatius, a prize-winning columnist for the Washington Post, has been covering the Middle East and the CIA for more than twenty-five years. His novels include Agents of Innocence, Body of Lies, and The Increment. He lives in Washington, DC.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

62 of 72 people found the following review helpful By Douglas B. Moran on July 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This is a very bad book, for reasons covered by many of the other negative reviews. However, it was about Chapter 10 that the underlying reason struck me. This wasn't written to be a book, but rather is a precursor to a screenplay for a big budget Hollywood action movie [...] Things that make no sense for a book make perfect sense when viewed as part of a screenplay.

The author is horrible on the "love story" components - it ranges from plodding to painful. Yet the love story is such a large portion of the book that it squeezes out the spy story.

And the spy story seems to be warped to favor visuals and dialog over thinking.

The author does not live up to his reputation as a writer of spy stories (from recommendations - this is the first of his books I read). The implausibilities and nonsense are glaring and far too numerous. The love story destroys the pacing of the spy story. The ending is badly forced (both in pacing and content) - it feels like the author was approaching a deadline and decided he had to wrap it up very quickly.

And especially annoying, the author cheats. When you tell a story from the perspective of one of the characters, you can't suddenly start excluding the reader from that character's conversations as a (lazy) way to create suspense. You can't have characters who are experts at keeping secrets (1) randomly reveal that they have a secret and then (2) reveal it to the main character just because he essentially pleads "Aw come on, tell me" a couple of times. This is a lazy - if not contemptuous (of the reader) - way to reveal information, although the demands of a screenplay may dictate such shortcuts. And you can't have a CIA case officer who is repeatedly incurious about significant events.
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50 of 61 people found the following review helpful By nwreader on April 2, 2007
Format: Hardcover
BODY OF LIES is startlingly contemporary--a story of the front lines of the intelligence war against Al Qaeda by a journalist who has covered both the CIA and Iraq for a quarter of a century. It is at once sobering, touching and invigorating. Fans of Ignatius's earlier works should know that this book is his best; those who have not yet discovered this prolific spy novelist (whose day job is as columnist for THE WASHINGTON POST) should do so. Inside a detailed and authoritative story of how both Western and Arab secret services fight what has been called "the long war" against violent Islamic terror, Ignatius has created a story of identity in the hall of mirrors that is the contemporary Middle East, and a love story that is powerful in its evocation of the ways that love can make us treasure life, and at the same time lay it down for those we love. Cancel your weekend plans; you won't be able to put BODY OF LIES down.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By T. Corrigan on August 3, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Having seen David Ignatuis interviewed by Charlie Rose, and seduced by the device of a "loaded" human corpse as a Trojan Horse strategy to convince Al Qaeda that we had somehow infiltrated the core of their network, I eagerly set out to read "Body of Lies." At the outset I realized that the book had something to live up to: Ewen Montagu's World War II classic, "The Man Who Never Was."

Ignatius' book is neither a total failure nor a total success. His strong suit is plotting and holding together a complex and multi-layered concoction of head games, played out by masters to whom the pawns are readily sacrificed, and dismissed. He is weakest in the love angle, where he becomes trite and predictable, getting precariously near to "sudsy" when the love interest of Alice Melville becomes a major focal point.

Against a mounting background of suicide bombing incidents in Europe, Roger Farris, former journalist and present CIA agent devises a plan to plant a suitable corpse, christened Harry Meeker, where Al Qaeda agents will be sure to find it. Harry is decked out with suitable pocket detritus; and he is properly cuffed to a dossier intended to convince higher ups in the terror pecking order that they have been compromised in the worst possible way. The major target is the elusive Suleiman the Magnificent, a less than humble operating ID for Al Qaeda's principal bombing strategist.

There are plot distractions that demand a fair bit of suspension of disbelief, as when Farris' boss, Hoffman, yanks him back to D.C. from his Jordanian posting, a bit more than seems plausible. This observation particularly applies once the reader has met, and begun to appreciate, the brilliance and guile of Hani Salaam, chief of Jordanian intelligence.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Noirist on June 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Unfortunately I did not find this novel as compelling as my fellow reviewers. The prose was mechanical and the plot formulaic. Worst of all were the cardboard characters that Mr. Ignatius moved around the cut-out diorama of his book. Quickly I lost interest and ultimately I had to put it down. I found Robert Baer's "See No Evil: The True Story of a Ground Soldier in the CIA's War on Terrorism" much better written and much more compelling.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Tim Murphy on July 8, 2008
Format: Paperback
For a present day 'spy-thriller' this was above average. This, of course, is not saying much.

Issue 1: The love story, as it was, was so hackneyed. I counted two dates before he was deeply in love? Also, how many times did he blurt "I love you" apropos of nothing in their conversations? Six? I get that this is supposed to motivate his actions or drive this resolution, but Mr. Igatius' strong suit is not romatic dialogue. The wistful remembrances, the happy family denoument, blech.

Issue 2: The CIA is rendered as more of a real place than usual in this genre UNTIL Hoffman gives us a tour of his secret lair. Populated with your standard set of 'crackerjack braniac outsiders' who have a sparkling rapport and super-computers that hold all the secrets. The multi-millionaire ex-hedge-fund guru who now works in the super-black ops? I expected them to introduce Schwartzenegger and Tom Arnold it was so cartoonish.

Issue 3: [Spoiler here] Up until 20 pages left in the book, our 'hero' doesn't have the foggiest what is going on. Everyone likes a twist, but this one fairly clearly demonstrates that our boy is a complete idiot. The Jordanian intelligence guy is able to completely manipulate EVERYTHING and the fact that the CIA seized on the SAME GUY he was already running sure helped. How does the secret-lair team know all and then totally miss this connection? Further, how does the SLT follow through on the operation and then totally miss the Jordan guy tracking the whole thing around. So the point of this book is that the Jordanian intelligence service is dominating and the CIA ultimately has no idea what is going on at any point? Fine, that.

Issue 4: How many references to the poison dental bridge? A dozen? Over and over he writes about this.
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