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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars John Wells in Africa
John Wells was presented to the literary world by Alex Berenson in April 2006 via his novel "The Faithful Spy". He was introduced as a CIA agent at the final point of working within an al qaeda band in Pakistan for two years. He is described as the first American to ever successfully infiltrate an al qaeda group. After that most unusual beginning John has taken part...
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41 of 48 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not up to the par of the rest of the series... A letdown
Well, I guess I won't be joining in the cheering section for this book.

I won't rehash the whole story line here, as this is a review and not a synopsis. You can get that on the book's Product Page (and evidently some of the other reviews).

Here's my take. John Wells (Berenson's central character) has, throughout the rest of the series, been involved...
Published 16 months ago by Brian Baker


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41 of 48 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not up to the par of the rest of the series... A letdown, February 18, 2013
By 
Brian Baker (Santa Clarita, CA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Night Ranger (A John Wells Novel) (Hardcover)
Well, I guess I won't be joining in the cheering section for this book.

I won't rehash the whole story line here, as this is a review and not a synopsis. You can get that on the book's Product Page (and evidently some of the other reviews).

Here's my take. John Wells (Berenson's central character) has, throughout the rest of the series, been involved in missions with very high stakes on the geo-political stage. That lends an element of tension and import to the stories that's completely missing here.

In Africa some kids who work to aid starving Somalis in the camps are kidnapped. Wells's estranged son persuades him to get involved as a personal favor. Wells shows up and starts trying to solve the mystery of who took them: criminals seeking ransom? Terrorists? Somali rebels? Is it an inside job?

The problems as I see them are these. First of all, this is essentially a pretty small story that takes place on a pretty small stage, much smaller than we're used to seeing Wells involved in. This is more a Jack Reacher kind of story.

The book moves VERY slowly, because we follow each event in the book from several perspectives: the kidnap victims', Well's, the kidnappers', and in many cases from the perspective of Wells's ex-boss and friend Ellis Schaeffer. Though this does give us the full picture of events, it really bogs down the flow of the story.

The story never really builds up much tension; I just didn't feel it.

The big mortal blow is that there's a character central to the plot who's definitely responsible for the events that take place (I'm being circumspect so as not to write a spoiler) ... and we never get any emotional payoff of seeing him pay for what he did!

So, a big disappointment. A generous three stars.
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25 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars John Wells in Africa, February 12, 2013
This review is from: The Night Ranger (A John Wells Novel) (Hardcover)
John Wells was presented to the literary world by Alex Berenson in April 2006 via his novel "The Faithful Spy". He was introduced as a CIA agent at the final point of working within an al qaeda band in Pakistan for two years. He is described as the first American to ever successfully infiltrate an al qaeda group. After that most unusual beginning John has taken part in several very well written and researched books; mainly involving Islamic terrorists as protagonists. The Night Ranger is the first Well's book set on the African continent. A group of American volunteers, two young men and two women are working with a charity group in Kenya involved in helping Somali refugees in camps there. They decide that a short vacation is needed to get away from the stress of trying to keep up with the overwhelming needs of the refugees. While traveling to the vacation area they are taken prisoner by Somali bandits whose intentions seem to be to ransom them and subsequently release them.
When their captivity drags on John Well's estranged son calls him after years of having no contact to ask him to intervene and try to free the four. One of the girls is his son's girlfriend's sister. John agrees to try and rescue the captives in order to possibly reestablish a relationship with the boy, and travels to Kenya to try and free them. Like the other Well's books the action is fast and keeps the reader glued to the pages. John, while no longer a member of the CIA coordinates his efforts with his ex supervisor since the US becomes officially interested in rescuing the volunteers, up to and including possibly sending in an invading force. There are a lot of of twists and turns in the action, not all of them logically following what has gone before, but what Berenson is good at is describing the thoughts, motivations, ideas and actions of all parties participating in the story. The people involved have different ideas revolving around the events and are described as somewhat in conflict with each other in response to what is happening to them. Well done, and keeping us anxiously awaiting the next John Well's book.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Satisfying -- But Like The Shadow Patrol, A Few Notches Below The Other Books In The Series!, March 21, 2013
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This review is from: The Night Ranger (A John Wells Novel) (Hardcover)
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In The Night Ranger, East Africa is new territory for John Wells. But when he is asked by his estranged son --whom he has only met once and was rejected by --to try to rescue the sister of a girl he likes and three other young Americans from the Somali bandits who snatched them, he finds it impossible to say no. This is because Wells sees it as the opportunity to begin to have the father-son relationship he yearns for.

Similar to all six books in Alex Berenson's John Wells series, The Night Ranger is entertaining and well-researched, However, relative to the first five books in the series, The Night Ranger (as well as Berenson's most recent previous book, The Shadow Patrol) is not quite as well-plotted, nor is it as much of a page-turner. Further, on a comparative basis, The Night Ranger, falls somewhat short in terms of dimensionalizing his main character and particularly his supporting characters; to the point that readers who have not read any of this author's previous books might feel they don't know some of the characters as well as they would have liked in order to care more about them. A further issue I had with Berenson's characters that were taken hostage and were exposed to some horrific experiences pertained to how little they seemed to be affected by them.

Despite these flaws, The Night Ranger is an acceptable read and one with which I think many espionage/spy gender readers will be satisfied. I'd suggest, however, that before reading The Night Ranger new readers to the series begin with The Faithful Spy and at least one of the other John Wells books to enhance their understanding and appreciation of the some of the characters they will meet in this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars John Wells is a sensitive New Age hitman, July 22, 2013
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I keep reading the John Wells novels, if only so that I can continue to make fun of the ex-CIA hard case who's a sensitive New Age guy.

On this reading (I've read several of these), I doublechecked that the author was actually a man. Alex could be a woman's name, and if so that might have explained why John Wells is so blatantly drawn as a feminist fantasy. Nope, Alex Berenson is a man. There's just no excuse.

Wells is way too nice. He has politically correct thoughts. When he enters the trailer of two kidnapped aid workers to see if he can find any clues, he actually thinks the following: "The trailer was cluttered with what Wells would always think of as girl stuff, nail files, shampoo bottles, and panties. . . . He poked around halfheartedly, but the search depressed him. He hoped he didn't find anything too intimate, not just topless photos or love letters, but the private stumblings that everyone had at home, expired vitamins and half-finished doodles and unread Christmas cards."

Excuse me, but no man would ever think this. A man would think, "These two girls are kidnapped and might die. Let's see if I can find anything suggesting who did it. Hmm, nice undies. Bet she fills those out nicely. OK, get your mind out of the gutter and back on task." He wouldn't go off on some women's-studies fugue wondering if they'd feel violated by some guy rummaging through their underwear. (Since they're much more likely to be violated by the gunmen he's trying to rescue them from.)

Retired from the CIA, he's living with a woman cop in New Hampshire and completely useless with tools. This might be common among New York Times reporters like Alex Berenson, but I doubt it's common with field operatives like Wells, who was an Army Ranger. Soldiers, particularly an op distinguished by his resourcefulness, know which end of a hammer to use. I think Jack Bauer can probably fix a pipe underneath his kitchen sink.

Women readers may, of course, like that the fully-empowered tools-and-guns person wearing the pants in that household is a woman.

Wells is a Muslim, something about his background on his mother's side and firmed up by his years undercover with jihadis in Afghanistan. He got away from it for a couple of episodes, but now is back with the Religion of Peace, thereby earning Berenson valuable diversity points among New York City literati who can at least all agree it's cool Wells is not Christian. (Berenson's next character: a Wiccan? Or would that be too earlier-wave feminist?)

I'm even suspect of the little character touches I like. Wells' girlfriend is the one who observes his favorite handgun is an aging piece of junk (I loved that) and that she's getting him a new piece for Christmas, should he, of course, agree to celebrate it.

He's the one who notes that, in his line of work, the gunfight is usually up close, personal and a matter of who shoots first. Firepower and range don't matter that much, only reliability, which his aging Makarov has in spades. I loved that too; it squares with what I've read elsewhere in non-fiction books. But meanwhile it made me think Berenson was once more writing for girls, who will love Wells for not having what they consider some typically-stupid-male gun fetish. Although his empowered cop girlfriend is encouraged to have one and, well, it's different when she does it because - well, it just is.

OK, enough about all that. The story is pretty straightforward. Four young volunteers working with Somali refugees just inside Kenya are kidnapped. One is the obnoxious frat-boy nephew of the charity's charismatic-hustler founder. They're all from Montana, including one, the cute-but-not-too-bright Gwen, who knows Wells' estranged son. The captives' experience is seen mostly through her eyes.

The son, who doesn't know or like Wells much or call him "Dad", guilts him into bringing his unique skill set to bear on the situation. Wells heads to Kenya, calling in favors from an old CIA pal with access to things like drones, satellite photos and phone records.

I did like the portrait Berenson draws of the camps, Kenyan society, and particularly the "fixers" that every Westerner needs to get anything done there - to know which officials to bribe and get them bribed, to get past police checkpoints, to understand the lay of the land.

Did the fixer used by Gwen and her friends set them up? With charitable donations to the aid group soaring out of sympathy with the bad news - is its founder, who lives better than a charity head should, a suspect? (Note: Republican white guy. You KNOW he's dirty. Ethnic profiling flourishes in action novels.) Who else is in on it?

I also enjoyed his peek into the world of the young Somali warlord Little Wizard, into whose hands the hostages fall while the young gunman's gang itself faces annihilation by a larger one.

Wells as an action figure also has his nice touches. I liked his reflections on his training as an op, and on the fact that he's not good for much except this kind of work. He pulls just the right thing out of his Jack-Bauer bag of tricks at just the right moment, be it a night-vision monocular or a you're-my-prisoner hood. The time frame is totally unbelievable, of course - how much Wells gets done in 2 or 3 days without sleep, how much travel gets done over rough country in Kenya and Somalia - but then that's typical of action novels trying to keep up suspense.

But Berenson continues his annoying gender politics - really, what is it with these New York Times reporters? is the water cooler there spiked with female hormones? - as he, through Gwen's eyes, rolls his eyeballs at the efforts of her dweeby male companion, who's, like, had a crush on her since forever, to develop enough cojones to lead a breakout.

It's, like, he's just so turning into a macho jerk, and now she's, like, really not going to sleep with him. Apparently only Wells has permission to be a real man in these books, and in his case it's OK, since he's a female-fantasy figure.

I like action novels written by right wingers better. They don't feel the constant need to apologize for who their heroes are, or for their being men.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A story of growth, June 3, 2013
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This is certainly not my favorite John Wells novel but in my opinion some of the other reviews are a bit harsh. Wells is here. Warts and all, this is John Wells. If you hated him, you will still hate him. If you believe this is exactly who I wish we had more of... you'll still love him. The simple fact of the matter is that the author has chosen to allow his character to age in real time rather than occasionally say a bullet wound hurt a bit more this year like some authors. John Wells is aging. He has his skills. He has his experience. He has his conflicts. He has secured his status as an all American bad ass. With this novel (like Bob Lee Swagger about 10 years ago) he is prepared to become a different kind of hero and he seems uniquely suited for the challenge.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Where to next, Tonto?, May 27, 2013
By 
Robert C. Olson (Vacaville, California USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Night Ranger (A John Wells Novel) (Hardcover)
Where to next, Tonto?
With the American-Arab conflicts winding down in the Middle East, Where/what does a 40+ former deep undercover, CIA covert Arabic speaking agent go/do? Not much calling for a man of John Wells talents. So begins Alex Berenson's action thriller The Night Ranger. Called upon by his estranged son to help find 4 missing college aid workers, Wells takes up the challenge and ventures into uncharted territory--violence torn East Africa. Using his covert wiles, John Wells begins the hunt and finds that there is more, much more, to the "supposed" kidnapping of these youths. Like "a stranger in a strange land", Mr. Wells must battle not only the local language barrier, but also roving bands of murderous thug militias, corrupt police officials, and an inhospitable landscape where death rules and hyenas feast on the dead.
Plenty of graphic violence but germane to the plot. No gratuitous sex or language.
Good character development as we see more of John Wells the domesticated man before he once again undertakes to save naive American aid workers from amoral youth killers in East Africa. In this land of treachery where life is cheap, Khat (a local amphetamine-like stimulant plant) and AK47s rule.
Mediocre recommend, wait for the paperback. At times The Night Ranger is gripping but then it fades to a wandering plot of multiple timelines as we follow Wells, the kidnapped aid workers, and the interaction of various militias as Mr. Berenson desperately tries to tie it all together. Too much in my humble opinion for a 387 page book. Finally, the Night Ranger was a story in search of an ending: It just ended with the Good guys riding off into the sunset without Tonto. The author left many questions unanswered about the who, what and why of the story. Definitely left this reviewer wanting.
It appears as the American-Arab conflicts wind down in the Middle East those authors writing thrillers of this genre are in search of "New" locals to continue their tales of covert action and mayhem.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars John Wells say Yipieye oh kayeh, May 8, 2013
By 
Grey Wolffe "Zeb Kantrowitz" (North Waltham, MA United States) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Night Ranger (A John Wells Novel) (Hardcover)
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OK, so I spelt it wrong, but John Wells is now becoming a cartoon character who could be placed in the 'Die Hard' or 'Expendibles' movie franchises. The premise of this book is to take on the bad Somali al-queda affiliate and blast them all over the desert. It seems that the sister of John Wells' estranged son's girlfriend (got that) has been taken hostage by some Somali rebels.

OK, a little background, these four clean cut and idealistic young Americans are working with an agency that feeds Somali refugees on the Somali/Kenyan border, think brainless without borders. Because as we all know, working with refugees day-in and day-out can get tiring and stressful, they (2 boys and 2 girls) decide to go on a local vacation. Think of a cross between a 'Beach Blanket' and 'Scream Movie', you know the kind of kids who say, 'lets go up to that old summer camp where all those people were killed over the last few years and drink and have sex'. Then they get captured by the big bad Somalis.

Well, no body is doing anything about the kids, so Wells Junior calls his dad and says, I know that you know that I hate you and everything you've done in your whole life, especially when you were working for the CIA, but if you rescue my girlfriend's sister, all is forgiven (and I can get laid). So John comes over and guess what, no I won't spoil the ending, but as he walks away he throws his son a box of trojans. Uh.

Zeb Kantrowitz
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Hostage, Drone and Phone Action in Africa, June 17, 2013
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"The Night Ranger" by Alex Berenson is 389 pages of very modern-day drone, mobile phone hostage action. It's a fair-to-middling story, one of the John Wells Action Series. The plot is about 75% believable, not bad for this genre.

The tale is marred by some pretty awful dialogue, especially that between the 4 young American aid-workers, who are kidnapped in Somalia during their volunterring stint there. As it turns out it appears that Mr. Berenson does not know how women talk; thus, the dialogue that involves the two young women (who comprise ˝ of the hostage group) is worse than terrible.

The dialogue among and between the African warlords is written in a kind of simplistic broken-English style, as if to mimic how those men might actually talk. This effort fails.

The inevitable honchos in Washington, D.C. (pushing the political and armament buttons) are also stick figures, quite unbelievable in their talk and somewhat in their actions. Why authors insist on drawing these CIA and other government officials as idiots in these kinds of stories is quite beyond me. Perhaps they really are like they are characterized, but their portrayal as asses (and worse) only serves to bring the story down to a low level.

Some of the action scenes are quite well done, especially a) John Wells entrance into the encampment of one of the competing African warlord groups (the one which holds the hostages), and b) the final action scene - a fight between two competing warlord groups -- is also good. Wells, the main guy, is, of course the hero who rescues the 3 remaining hostages (one has been killed) with the help of drone precision bombing and tracking. It's all rather miraculous. The 4 young American hostages are all unlikeable and embarrassing examples of young America.

I always wonder why these super-heroes' mobile phones always seem to work no matter where they are on the face of the earth and no matter how many days they have been without the necessary charging. Stories like "The Night Ranger" rely on you, the reader, suspending disbelief time and time again, especially in regard to technical matters, such as cell phone which never need re-charging and work in the middle of deserts! Come on!

All-in-all, despite the above criticisms, it's a pretty good story, moves along and ends with some happiness for most of the Americans involved. The fate of many Africans is less than happy.

So, it's a 3.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exciting Story!, March 1, 2013
By 
Melvin Hunt (Cleveland,, Texas United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Night Ranger (A John Wells Novel) (Hardcover)
The hero of this Berenson novel is once again the unorthodox John Wells.Some volunteers in a group that has gone to Kenya to help with citizens that are in need of aid are taken hostage by a group of African bandits. The local law enforcement agencies are having no luck finding the American hostages. The
name of the aid group is World Cares/Children First. Their headquarters is in Kenya. Wells starts tracking the path of the captured volunteers. There are various bandit groups who are trying to gain possession of the volunteers because of the potential of a large ransom. The volunteers finally end up as prisoners of the White Men . The leader of this group is "Wizard". He is given this name because he has been shot and managed to survive. Wells finally manages to make a deal with "Wizard" but finds out that he has been decieved. This is a good story that has a iunique ending.
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5.0 out of 5 stars The John Wells character is a classic American hero wo does the dirty jobs no one wants to do and while some ..., July 10, 2014
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Intense. Realistic. Informed. Inspiring. The John Wells character is a classic American hero wo does the dirty jobs no one wants to do and while some of those around him think he is just a cold and cunning assassin, he is a troubled and conflicted soul which make him all the more appealing especially when he is called upon to do the jobs no one else is able or willing to save lives, American or not. Let's get a script written for this very modern warfare character.
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The Night Ranger (A John Wells Novel)
The Night Ranger (A John Wells Novel) by Alex Berenson (Hardcover - February 12, 2013)
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