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The Ghost War (A John Wells Novel) Hardcover – February 12, 2008


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Product Details

  • Series: A John Wells Novel
  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Putnam Adult; First Edition edition (February 12, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0399154531
  • ISBN-13: 978-0399154539
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.3 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (163 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #257,200 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Having foiled an al-Qaeda plot targeting Times Square in 2006's The Faithful Spy (which won an Edgar Award for best first novel), maverick CIA agent John Wells confronts a very different threat in this pulse-pounding sequel from New York Times reporter Berenson. When the CIA's efforts to extract Dr. Sung Kwan, a North Korean scientist and an invaluable source on Kim Jong Il's nuclear ambitions, result in the deaths of Kwan and the rescue team, Wells's significant other, Jennifer Exley, searches to identify the person in U.S. intelligence who compromised Kwan's security. Meanwhile, Wells returns to Afghanistan, the scene of much of the action in The Faithful Spy, to find out what outside country has been helping the Taliban reassert itself. While the mole hunt will be familiar to genre buffs and the characters and the perils they face aren't as nuanced as those in John le Carré or even David Ignatius, the author's plausible scenario distinguishes this from most spy thrillers. Author tour. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Seasoned narrator Guidall takes listeners on a global journey of espionage and intrigue, breathing life into CIA agent John Wells, whose voice teems with emotion. Wells’ assignment involves ferreting out a CIA mole, and the tenseness of the task is evident in Guidall’s terse tones. When it becomes clear that the mole is selling secrets to the Chinese, and Wells tries to recover a CIA undercover agent in North Korea, Guidall instills Wells’ voice with carefully placed pauses. These pauses highlight Wells’ confusion and despair at the realization that a conflict between world powers may be imminent, and there seems to be nothing he can do to stop it. Berenson’s follow-up to The Faithful Spy (2007) is a winner. --Sheri Melnick --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

More About the Author

As a reporter for The New York Times, Alex Berenson has covered topics ranging from the occupation of Iraq to the flooding of New Orleans to the financial crimes of Bernie Madoff.

Customer Reviews

I found this book to be very interesting and well written.
william C. O'neill
This read was gripping and kept me turning the pages until I finished.
Margaret rohde
The characters no longer feel believable and the plot is predictable.
D. Martel

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

51 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Julia Walker VINE VOICE on March 9, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Berenson's first book, The Faithful Spy, was amazing - crisp writing, well-thought-out action, fine character development. The loss that John Wells incurred by serving as the secret servant of the US for many years was staggeringly portrayed: the deaths of his parents, the loss of contact with his child, the sense of being out-of-step with what he thought of as his own culture, all of this should have made even the most cynical readers think about what deep-cover agents agree to give up. It's hard to imagine how Berenson could have upped the stakes in a second novel.

And he doesn't. He simply provides a compelling and realistic continuation of the narrative. What can Wells do to top saving the world in Times Square? Not much. But Berenson gives us another tale well worth reading, as well as a number if political zingers to wonder over.

The John Wells character continues to develop in The Ghost War, and unsurprisingly he is beset by doubts about how he can sustain the life he has fallen into back in the States. Berenson, realizing that his readers expect action, doesn't let this introspection go on too long, but it is a necessary preface to the main events of the novel; without that we would just have James Bond walking in the door and greeting Moneypenny, ready for the next adventure.

Jennifer Exley, the CIA handler who saves Wells in the first book, is back, but we see less of her than I had hoped. There are some passages about her choice of a professional life over the young children she has, but these all have a slightly formulaic ring. Yes, Exley avoids stereotypes, but that's about the best that we can say for her in this book. Even her out-of-the-box solution for getting Wells back is given only the briefest brush of ink. More next time?
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58 of 64 people found the following review helpful By Eric Wilson TOP 1000 REVIEWER on March 15, 2008
Format: Hardcover
I grew up on the espionage fiction of John Le Carre, Len Deighton, and Frederick Forsyth. In more recent years, I've become a fan of Daniel Silva and others who capture the nuances of modern politics and intrigue. When I came across Berenson's "The Faithful Spy," I felt like I'd discovered a new novelist to follow along this genre's tenuous path, so I was excited to see his second book hit the shelves.

"The Ghost War" starts with some interesting scenarios by delving into the areas of North Korea and China. He raises questions that demand answers, and gives a cautionary tale of sorts. Again, we follow the career of John Wells, a steadfast, pragmatic loner, who now plays the uncomfortable role of American hero. Wells is in a relationship that could add depth for continued books, but that fails to do much here. In fact, I felt that Berenson set up a number of elements for the series' continuation, while never quite giving us the focus of his debut thriller. He brushes up against Vince Flynn stereotypes, then pokes at Le Carre themes, and never really establishes his own identity.

I'm not worried, though. I have no doubt that Berenson is on the verge of creating a strong line of Wells' novels. "The Faithful Spy" was a breath of fresh air, "The Ghost War" is an author catching his breath, and I expect from here he'll be running with a second wind. I'll certainly pick up the next book, but I can only hope it builds on the promise. Until then, I'll be waiting for Silva's "Moscow Rules."
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26 of 28 people found the following review helpful By K. M. VINE VOICE on March 12, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Alex Berenson's premiere thriller, THE FAITHFUL SPY, introduced CIA agent John Wells, a character who truly stood out among fictional spies. He had been under cover for ten years, infiltrating Al Qaeda. Embedded, he became a practicing Muslim in deed and, intriguingly, thought.

THE GHOST WAR picks up Wells' story after he has been back in the U.S. for some time. Insomnia plagues his restless mind and body, so he speeds along largely empty interstates in the dead of night on his black Honda motorcycle, taking "joyless joyrides." He's become a re-Americanized guy, a guy who no longer prays five times a day, who is no longer Muslim (or "Moslem," the alternate spelling) and therein lies a loss of distinction. Suddenly, Alex Berenson's hero tends to blend into the crowd of fellow super-spies whose tales line the bookstore adventure shelves.

Once one has accustomed oneself to Wells' more generic identity, THE GHOST WAR is a solid (but not exceptional) read. He is a hero at loose ends, a man in need of a new mission, his loyal and loving girlfriend (and boss), Jennifer Exley, is sure. And since the world is never a static, uncomplicated place, one comes his way in short order.

The basic geopolitical premises the fuel the plot are credible. Certainly, China and the U.S. could flirt dangerously with war. Certainly, North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, and other "hot spots" could play parts in exacerbating tensions between the current superpower and, according to some predictions, its presumed successor. And it goes without saying that the CIA sends spies to gather vital intelligence and extract foreign nationals who are vital assets. So, THE GHOST WAR is, in many ways, a believable techno-thriller.
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