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Red Cell: A Novel Hardcover – May 1, 2012

95 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“CIA analyst Henshaw’s assured debut, an exciting espionage thriller, puts him solidly in the ranks of the top writers of the genre. Henshaw deftly weaves together all the major and minor players—the U.S., Chinese, and Taiwanese governments; the spies who provide information; and the analysts who turn that information into intelligence. The masterfully handled battle at the end is worthy of Tom Clancy.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

Red Cell is as smart as it is exciting, a thriller that makes you think from the edge of your seat. Mark Henshaw’s unique perspective from the inside makes it all feel terrifyingly real.” —Howard Gordon, co-creator of Homeland and author of Hard Target

“Mark Henshaw is the real deal and he delivers big-time in his debut novel Red Cell. Only a decorated CIA analyst like Henshaw could take you this deep into the psyche of CIA operatives—and even deeper into one of the most dangerous and imminent geopolitical flashpoints of our times. If the events Henshaw plays out on the pages of his novel have not already taken place in secret, they may well play out in public sooner rather than later. Mr. President, this intelligence briefing is worth your special attention.” —Thomas Greanias, New York Times bestselling author of Dominus Dei

“Mark Henshaw clearly knows the terrain, from the geopolitical to the tradecraft in the shadows. I'm surprised this made it past the CIA censors. A rock solid thriller as plausible as tomorrow's headlines.”Brad Taylor, New York Times bestselling author of One Rough Man and All Necessary Force

“If you’re looking for a great, authentic and thrilling story, look no further. Lock the door and turn off the phone, because you’re going on a journey only a gifted insider like Mark Henshaw could take you on. This author is a rare double threat—a man with the knowledge and access few have, and the rare talent as a writer to bring it to life. If you want to learn how things really work when it hits the fan, you can apply for a job at the CIA or read Mark’s book.” —David Ayer, screenwriter of Training Day and S.W.A.T.

About the Author

Mark Henshaw is a graduate of Brigham Young University and a decorated CIA analyst with more than eleven years of service. In 2007, Henshaw was awarded the Director of National Intelligence Galileo Award for innovation in intelligence analysis. Henshaw lives with his family in Leesburg, Virginia.


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Touchstone (May 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1451661932
  • ISBN-13: 978-1451661934
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.3 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (95 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #860,942 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mark Henshaw began his CIA career with the Agency's Office of Transnational Issues in 1999 as a Science, Weapons & Technology analyst and became a founding "plankholder" with the Agency's Information Operations Center (IOC) in 2001. In 2006, Mark graduated from the CIA Sherman Kent School's Advanced Analyst Program and undertook a three-year rotation with the CIA Red Cell, a unit charged with "taking a pronounced 'outside-of-the-box' approach that will provoke thought and offer an alternative viewpoint on the full range of analytic issues."

During 16 years at CIA, Mark earned eighteen Exceptional Performance Awards and was the recipient of the prestigious Director of National Intelligence's 2007 Galileo Award, which "recognizes innovative and creative solutions to the United States future intelligence challenges." His winning co-authored paper, "A National Security Simulations Center" proposed that the DNI should establish an Intelligence Community (IC) center that would promote and organize war games for IC training, analysis, and outreach.

Mark graduated from Brigham Young University in 1999 with a Master's of International Relations from the David M. Kennedy School of International and Area Studies; and a Master's of Business Administration from the Marriot School of Management.

Visit Mark's official website at

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on May 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover
A new CIA think tank named "Red Cell" was created in the hours following the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center towers. The idea behind Red Cell was and is to take an out-of-the-box approach when considering issues of geopolitical import. Mark Henshaw is a former member of that think tank, and it shows in this smart, scary, edge-of-your-seat debut thriller that will keep you up all night reading and worrying.
RED CELL begins when a meeting in Caracas, Venezuela between a CIA agent and an intelligence asset goes off the rails. The agent is a rookie CIA case officer named Kyra Stryker; she is extracted from the snafu safely, but with injuries. While still recuperating, she is brought back to Langley and assigned to Red Cell by CIA Director Kathy Cooke. Stryker is paired with the think tank's only other member, a brilliant but extremely eccentric analyst named Jonathan Burke, whose unorthodox research methods and approaches, combined with his offsetting personality and the fact that he's always right, tend to alienate almost everyone. Remember the kid who constructed the great things out of Legos in kindergarten, but wouldn't let anyone else play with them? That was Burke.

Oddly enough, Stryker and Burke hit it off. Stryker is secure enough in her own abilities, which consist of reading people and reacting to their expressions, to appreciate Burke's results, his abrasiveness notwithstanding. Burke senses a wide and deep intelligence in Stryker that might equal his own, even if it manifests itself in different ways.

The Red Cell team quickly gets their baptism by fire when a team of spies from mainland China is apprehended and incarcerated in Taiwan.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Bobbewig TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on July 26, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The decision to read Red Cell, Mark Henshaw's debut thriller, seemed like a no-brainer for me. It received a very high rating from an Amazon Friend whose opinions I trust a lot, plus it had the following checklist of qualities that usually guarantees a high rating from me:
...Ripped-from-the headlines political intrigue
...Credible espionage scenarios
...Realistic military action, and
...Modern high-tech weaponry.

Based on these factors, I had high expectations for an exciting reading experience.

Overall, however, "at the end of the day" I was only moderately satisfied with Red Cell. While it did perform well enough in delivering most of the above-mentioned qualities, I was somewhat disappointed in the book's character development and in its narrative style. Henshaw's main characters never came "fully to life" for me. For the most part, I felt that the characters were just serviceable enough to move the exciting plot along, but they never really became people I got to know well enough and, thus, care much about. Further, and perhaps the bigger issue for me, was that Henshaw uses an almost diary-like narrative approach to tell the story; which resulted in too little dialogue and the plot shifting gears every few pages, making it seem more interruptive than exciting.

I know my review is "going against the grain" of most reviews to-date, but I hope it gives you additional ammunition in helping decide if Red Cell is a book for you.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful By David Abramowitz on May 15, 2012
Format: Hardcover
What a treat to read first time author, Mark Henshaw's Red Cell. Just read the prologue and you will understand why I couldn't put the book down. This was a well researched spy thriller. It had all the components of a great read including action, plots and subplots, fast moving scenes from Venezuela to Beijing and back to Langley. Other reviewers discussed the plot. All I can say is that Henshaw has a promising career in the spy thriller genre. In terms of enjoyment, I would compare him to Clancy, Ken Follett, Alex Berenson, and Daniel Silva. I can't wait till his second novel comes out. This is a must read.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Robert C. Buckner on July 6, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The first chase scene is exciting until the heroine encounters a black-clad figure who steps from the shadows wielding a weapon. She puts the heel of her hand into his throat and he hits the ground. I pounded the book against my forehead when the author stops the action and intrudes to tell us the specific injuries the man suffered, and how it would be months before he recovered. For me, the flow of the action ended there. In too many scenes the pov of characters switch back and forth from paragraph to paragraph. A bit of levity does appear on page 287 when the author tells us: "The dead Su-27's wingman was maneuvering for a shot..." The frequency of acronyms did confuse me, but I'll take the blame for my stupidity rather than accuse the author of trying to befuddle. The list above doesn't merit a hanging offense, but I'd say the writer did construct a couple of steps up the ladder to the platform with the swinging floors.

Vilification is finished. Mark Henshaw writes beautifully, using strong, active verbs. His characterization is spot on, and suspense hovers over every page. I strongly suggest you buy and read this book. I eagerly await his next novel, but I hope he utilizes new editors.
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