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The Finish: The Killing of Osama Bin Laden Hardcover – October 16, 2012

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Editorial Reviews Review

While much has been written about the killing of Osama Bin Laden by an elite group of Navy Seals--and much more will be--no account could be more meticulous and balanced than this fascinating report from the author of Black Hawk Down. Riveting but evenhanded, dramatic but thoughtful, Bowden’s account is the deeply sourced story of what was going on in the heads of our government leaders, as well as the Al Qaeda leader known in the intelligence community as “The Pacer.” --Sara Nelson


A New York Times Bestseller

“In-depth interviews with Obama and other insiders reveal a White House on edge, facing top-secret options, white-knuckle decisions, and unforeseen obstacles. . . . Bowden weaves together accounts from Obama and top decision-makers for the full story behind the daring operation.”—Vanity Fair

“A book — one with sweep and sophistication — about a pivotal, secretive operation . . . smart and measured, long on transparency and short on speculation. . . . Bowden enjoyed exceptional access, but wasn't captured by it. . . . Bowden’s lens is wide, encompassing Obama’s evolution as a politician and the peculiar influence of bin Laden . . . Where the book shines is in Bowden's reconstruction and refined analysis of the intelligence operations that turned up bin Laden's location. . . . The book also succeeds in its artful portrait of Obama as commander in chief. . . . compelling drama, and Bowden has captured it with skill and style.”—Seattle Times

“How all the president’s men and women finally nabbed the world’s most wanted terrorist is truly a stunning story. And while parts of it have been told, Barack Obama himself has confided in only one writer about all the details. And he is Mark Bowden.”—CNN

“The first book, and, to date, the definitive one, that looks at the Osama bin Laden raid from President Obama’s perspective. The Finish describes a new kind of war fighting—the fusion of intelligence from vast and scattered sources—to track and apprehend, or kill, the enemy. . . . It's a gripping tale.”—The Daily Beast

“The most accessible and satisfying book yet written on the climactic event in the United States' long war against al Qaeda.”—San Francisco Chronicle

“The death of the man responsible for the 9/11 attacks is a fantastic story. It has goodies and baddies, a long, slow build to the climax, exotic locations and lots of hardware. . . . Bowden [shows] how success in the raid last May was the culmination not just of a decade of often tedious data-crunching by the CIA and other analysts, but of a vast and ongoing effort within the American security establishment and government to develop a new range of capabilities. . . . How the Americans finally got their man is an extraordinary tale and Bowden does it justice.”—Guardian

"A superb storyteller, Bowden captures the tense drama accompanying the final months of the bin Laden hunt, even as he underscores the quiet, essential work of years."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Bowden’s new book outlines the changes in warfare since the Sept. 11, 2011, terrorist attacks, and the way our increasing computational power has helped capture terrorists like Osama bin Laden.”—NPR

The Finish leverages access to key White House, military, intelligence, and foreign-policy officials—including President Obama himself—to get behind the intricate story of how SEAL Team Six was sent to Abbottabad, Pakistan, to kill Osama bin Laden. . . . Bowden reviews the evolutionary progress made in intelligence processing and military capabilities that led to the raid on Abbottabad. . . . close to a textbook example of complex national security decision-making.”—The Atlantic

“[A] dramatic narrative . . . the actual champion of the bin Laden hunt is a collective of mostly nameless hands within the intelligence bureaucracy. . . The Finish is at its best when Mr. Bowden goes deep into mission planning, gameboarding the choice of means of attack—air strike? sniper drone? ground-force raid?”—Wall Street Journal

“A page-turner . . . an informative, on-the-ground account of the mission. Adept at maintaining suspense even when the outcome is widely known, Bowden also makes judicious assessments of how much credit Obama deserves -- and the impact of the assassination on al Qaeda.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Bowden would seem like the perfect person to tell the bin Laden story. . . . There is an excellent setting-the-record-straight section at the end that has been missing in other volumes.”—Washington Post

“Bowden . . . reveals the details of the planning, but knows when to pull back from a close focus to give the wider view of what was at stake for President Obama, military planners and the Navy SEALS team. . . . [His] experience as a reporter and author shows.”—Fayetteville Observer

“Shaping up to be one of the fall’s big books.”—Publishers Weekly

“Bowden’s book draws back to look at the raid in strategic context. I suspect that readers who choose Bowden’s wide-angle approach will find themselves better informed.”—St. Louis Today

“To chart the tale of the hunt for the world’s most notorious terrorist, Bowden assembled an extensive history of the modern warfare and intelligence tactics that led to the rare, execution and deep-sea burial.” —Philadelphia Weekly

“[Bowden] uses his hard-earned access to focus on the decade of intelligence-gathering and decision-making that led up to the Abbottabad raid.”—National Post (Canada)

The Finish paints the U.S. government’s relationship to technology and social media as integral in the capture of bin Laden. . . . Many see Bowden as one of the most respected writers covering the U.S. military and Special Forces today.”—Books & Review

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 266 pages
  • Publisher: Atlantic Monthly Press; First Edition edition (October 16, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802120342
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802120342
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6.2 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (274 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #282,742 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mark Bowden is the bestselling author of Black Hawk Down: A Story of Modern War, as well as The Best Game Ever, Bringing the Heat, Killing Pablo, and Guests of the Ayatollah. He reported at The Philadelphia Inquirer for twenty years and now writes for Vanity Fair, The Atlantic, and other magazines. He lives in Oxford, Pennsylvania.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

142 of 164 people found the following review helpful By Martin C. on November 7, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
There are several things wrong with this book, and they get worse as you approach the later chapters. I would have given up earlier, I only finished it so that I can write a qualified review.

First of all the writing style is nothing like other Bowden work. I don't know whether there was a bunch of rushed ghostwriters at work here or what happened, but the writing style is nothing like Bowden's other works, flat and repetitive. Editing also lacks, with some sentences making no sense, referring to the wrong person, missing quotation marks etc.

Speaking of repetitive, the whole book is based on very little actual information, it is just spread out in a wordy manner, and as I said the editors didn't shy away from becoming outright repetitive.

Then there is the issue of what original information there is. Apart from one interview with Obama which is mentioned in several places (but not a very revealing one either) much of the information seems to come from political staffers. That is kind of OK when we are talking about CIA personnel, but much of this book is white house staff work and description of conference rooms. Sorry I don't like it. And I did like other books that had a lot of administrative detail in them, so it's not just the topic. But it mixes not well with the repetitiveness.

The description of the actual raid is a huge letdown, too, since Bowden did decide to publish before he had access to anybody who was there. So in the end you learned a lot about political staffers' decision-making (such as speech preparation which is a central topic), people you never heard about before.

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35 of 39 people found the following review helpful By Jordan M. Poss VINE VOICE on December 4, 2012
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
When I found out that Mark Bowden, author of one of my favorite nonfiction books, Black Hawk Down, was writing a book on the killing of Osama Bin Laden, I immediately preordered it and read it as soon as it arrived. Bowden is a strong writer and dedicated researcher with a talent for styling nonfiction reporting in a gripping fictional style, doing for Mogadishu what Truman Capote did for crime reporting in In Cold Blood and Tom Wolfe did for the Gemini astronauts in The Right Stuff. Unfortunately, little of that talent is one display in The Finish.

Bowden attempts, at the beginning of each chapter of The Finish, to introduce a fiction-like moment involving the main players in his story. A chapter will begin with someone in a vividly described moment--Obama on the morning of 9/11, Bin Laden in hiding--and almost immediately launch into flashback. Bowden often used this technique in Black Hawk Down, beginning with someone in action (Sgt. Eversman lifting off in a Black Hawk opens the book) but skipping back in time to fill in the background of the bloody raid in Mogadishu, but the flashbacks in The Finish never lead back to anything. The narrative loops backward, exposition happens, and then the next chapter begins and the process repeats. Beyond descriptions of 9/11 and the raid on Abbottabad itself, there is little concrete action for Bowden to exploit, as he has done so well in other books, and so the majority of the book feels like background, exposition, detail we'll need for later.

I'd blame it on source material and a rushed timeline. The research for The Finish appears to have been primarily interviews with major political figures.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Seamus Kelly on February 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the past I've read several of your works thus when I saw you had written on the subject of the killing of Bin Laden I got excited. Sadly as I clawed my way through each page I found myself wondering why was I re-reading the same data over again. Other reviews point out that you giving president Obama too much glory but I don't agree. I do think our president made this mission a priority and for that he enjoys honor. But once is enough to harp on this right?

Seriously Mr. Bowden, what happened?
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44 of 56 people found the following review helpful By ArubaBob on November 5, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have read most of Mark Bowden's books and found them well researched and written. Unfortunately, while the research may have been up to his standards, the book didn't provide many new facts nor were they presented in an interesting way. I was more annoyed with the author's comments that represented his opinion and seemed to be politically oriented. I expect non-fiction books to provide unbiased statements of facts (unless overtly stated on the book's cover).
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By mbt on July 15, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Let's face it. Many of us who watched "Zero Dark 30" were left with an intellectual curiosity and hunger on this fascinating subject. Unfortunately you will find almost nothing of anything that even remotely resembles a collection of factual knowledge on this subject while reading this book.
First off a decent chunk of this book (over 1/3 of the page count) is exclusively devoted to Obama and not Osama. We learn about how the president felt 'emotionally" about the 911 attacks. Where he was when they occurred. Endless trivial details about his presidential campaign. What he wore during the raid on Abbottabad. What I really want to know is what ST6 wore on the raid. I could care less about Obama's tennis shirt.
Bowden doesn't seem to really have any direct knowledge of how we actually found the target. Basically the scenario the book provides is that we had this really big computer into which we put in a huge amount of intelligence and combined that with the determined will of a president named Barak; and then Abbottabad just fell into our laps. The CIA agent featured in ZD30 is identified as "John" and that's all we learn about that operative. We really don't get any sense of the national effort and determination of the American people to bag this piece of scum despite the best efforts of a bungling President Bush who dropped the ball and side tracked this nation for years into a foreign war that had nothing to do with 911.
Instead of calling this book "The Finish", Bowden would have done better by giving it the title " How Obama became president and accidently and at great personal risk to himself killed Osama all by himself with just a little bit of help from his speech writer".
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