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Bloodmoney: A Novel of Espionage Hardcover – June 6, 2011

4.1 out of 5 stars 116 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Foreign intrigue specialist Ignatius (The Increment) continues his fictional trek through terrorist hot spots with this timely thriller about the CIA's bungling attempts to influence Pakistan's shaky, insecure leadership. Sophie Marx, an agent hungry to return to the field after a high-level but boring desk job, works for a new intelligence unit disguised as a Los Angeles record company, Hit Parade, whose undercover focus is to control Pakistani organized terrorist cells through bribery. It's not working. Not only are the terrorist attacks continuing but CIA agents delivering the bribes are being murdered. To make matters worse, Hit Parade's secret funding source—a highly illegal strategy to skim money from the world's financial markets—is rapidly becoming public knowledge. Ignatius, a Washington Post columnist, is especially good at capturing the work environment at the CIA, where petty bickering, one-upmanship, and moral lapses often get in the way of sound policy. (June)


Starred Review. [C]ontinues his series of top-notch CIA thrillers with this fast-paced new entry…. Ignatius writes with authority and skill about a shadow world in which nothing is as it seems and money is power. This may be fiction, but in the end the reader will be struck by how feasible the story really is.... A terrific, believable novel about the intersection of politics, ethics and finance. (Kirkus Reviews)

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; First Edition edition (June 6, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393078116
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393078114
  • Product Dimensions: 6.6 x 1.3 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (116 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #979,953 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By wogan TOP 500 REVIEWER on June 2, 2011
Format: Hardcover
David Ignatius has written another political thriller/mystery. It is filled with the cynicism of someone familiar with the current situation of international politics and the espionage community...all intelligence communities lie, it is their job. We can also see the touch of history in here, the same conflicts happening today as yesterday, the same thing that happened to the British is occurring today in their once occupied countries. Ignatius is also an astute observer of human and national nature.

Two matters stand out in this novel, looking through the eyes of the enemy and why he is motivated to act as he does. A brilliant mathematician/computer scientist/professor, "pondered how he might make these assassins feel the same fear that the people of his valley had felt for all these years," after seeing his whole family destroyed by an American drone. There is a bit of sympathy for this person, but he is still presented as a criminal. The other matter is the constant need for subterfuge, the lies of espionage and intelligence communities even within their own ranks, the problems and the necessities to get their job done.

The mystery to be solved is: Where is the leak that is getting agents killed? How do they know where and when these undercover operatives are going to be? This is a political thriller, a mystery that perhaps delves deeper into the seas of the espionage world than they would enjoy.
Where Ignatius shines of course is in describing the actions and methods of the news media. Ignatius, has researched his subject thoroughly, even traveling into these dangerous regions. It is an interesting twist to get inside the head of someone who wishes to kill your countrymen; but even more than that is the fact that the reader can picture and feel and know and empathize with all of the main characters. It is a well written novel that will pull you into its' world.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
4.5 Stars: This book works because the spy thriller part -- Sophie Marx is tasked with finding out how someone uncovered the identities of the US' most secret agents -- is just fictional enough that it keeps Bloodmoney from reading like a polemic or another history of the War on Terrorism. Meanwhile, the backdrop for the story is painted with so much detail that the reader actually ends up learning quite a bit about Pakistan and the ongoing War on Terrorism. The book raises important questions about vengeance, cultural understanding, and ending wars, but the author features all viewpoints (terrorist and terrorist hunter alike) so the reader never feels lectured at or bullied.

Regardless of whether the secret, high-tech CIA spinoff part is based on reality, this book shines a light on current events in Southern Asia. Ignatius stood in the shoes of each of the characters instead of having it just be Sophie Marx's narrative. She drives the story in that it's her job to uncover the truth, but the world of Bloodmoney is so messy there really are no clear-cut heroes and heroines. As a result, the reader sees the post-9/11 world from a variety of perspectives: the predator drone survivor, the boy from Waziristan who grew up watching the Americans arm the Taliban, the Western-educated Pakistani general, the warrior whose culture is steeped in vengeance, the old guard CIA, the change agent of a new administration, the foot soldiers operating without a big picture view, the civilian called on to help his country, etc.

The book spans the globe, from the San Fernando Valley to London to Waziristan, and Ignatius describes each setting in vivid detail. The descriptions of places I've been were quite accurate and I was able to clearly see the places I haven't been.
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Format: Hardcover
This is an intense espionage thriller by a veteran (writer, not military) who knows his stuff. It takes the common American interpretation of what's going on in Pakistan (a la the Osama bin Laden killing) and turns it completely on its head. Following Omar al-Wazir, whose whole family gets obliterated by a Predator drone attack. But it's not a simpleton's lashing out against the big bad mean Americans because the counterpart to the Pakistani rage of injustice is the rogue CIA unit that operates in revenge of the horrific attacks on America.

Ignatius paints a crazy, depressing picture of the situation over in the Middle East that will be fixed in no quick manner. The most superficial question here is whether it is moral to use remote-control drones to take out military targets. Is it a cleaner, less bloody solution? It certainly takes away some of the moral heft of the decision away from the actors, who are no longer participating in the war zone, but instead are up to 10,000 miles away.

Along the lines of sophisticated intelligence fiction like Tom Clancy's work and even a touch of the fascinating political intrigue of the excellent Gods of Ruin: A Political Thriller, BloodMoney will be a great addition to your reading list.
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From a writer who should know his subject, here's a book with an interesting and mind-grabbing premise--U.S. drone attacks against the honor/vengeance-driven Pashtun tribesmen of Pakistan will inevitably provoke very serious acts of retribution which continue until personal honor is satisfied. As you read the headlines over the past year (and as recently as yesterday), you can see the probability of a long-running feud with these folks brewing. And so "Bloodmoney" opens with such a strike which hits a family compound in Waziristan, taking out the entire family of a Pakistani scientist who up till that moment has been actively assisting the CIA in its operations against al-Quaeda and the Taliban. An implacable enemy of the U.S. (or at least the CIA) is born on the spot, and within months American operatives begin to fall like dead leaves.

"Bloodmoney" is also a tale of a secret intelligence splinter group that operates with the faintest of mandates from the oval office to stop terrorist groups by paying them off with big bags of cash, but without direction from Mother CIA. It is this group that begins to lose personnel at the hands of the revenge-seeking Pakistani. The rest of the book is about tracking the angry scientist and stopping his warpath to honor.

The book gets off to a good start and has pretty good "bones". But overall, it leans too far in the direction of fantasy for my taste. The characters seemed too often one-dimensional, the dialogue implausible and artificial, and the conclusion muddled and just not fully credible. Under the category of "really annoying"--the first half of the book is overburdened with pithy Pashtun tribal sayings--seemingly one every other page. This device is abandoned almost completely further into the book.
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