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The Night Ranger (A John Wells Novel) Paperback – January 28, 2014
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“Don't miss this one.”—The Minneapolis Star-Tribune
“A tense thriller that relies equally on bravery, wit, and 21st-century American firepower.”—Kirkus Reviews
“Taut prose, plausible action, and plenty of plot surprises.”—Publishers Weekly
About the Author
As a reporter for The New York Times, Alex Berenson covered topics ranging from the occupation of Iraq to the flooding of New Orleans to the financial crimes of Bernie Madoff. His previous novels include The Faithful Spy, winner of a 2007 Edgar® Award, The Ghost War, The Silent Man, The Midnight House, The Secret Soldier, and The Shadow Patrol.
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John Wells is former CIA, retired. He left the company years before out of disillusionment for the politics involved. An old friend, Shafer, who is close to mandatory retirement, still helps with whatever John needs. John is called on by the parents of one of the volunteers that went to East Africa to help with aid. She and three other volunteers are kidnapped and held for ransom. Until things go terribly sideways and they come to realize they have been betrayed.
East Africa is a whole new ballgame for John. He's only been in the region very briefly, long ago, so things are different in the way they are handled. Money still talks, but you need a "fixer" to make things work.
It is at this point that this books begins to differ from the others in the John Wells series. The author seemed more intent on describing conditions in African refugee camps, the inadequacies of aid work and the inherent dangers of East Africa with the character of John Wells taking a back seat. Much of the plot is spent giving insight into aid workers, warring Somalian tribal warlords and corrupt Kenyan police officers. If this was the intent of the author then he succeeded. John Wells was not the central theme of this story.
There were several parts of the story that seemed to be underdeveloped. The head of the aid group was a very shallow and very stereotypical "bad" guy. He added nothing to the story except as a convenient piece of the back story and providing a easy villain. The entire aid camp story just seemed contrived and, again, added nothing to the story.
While I enjoyed catching up with Berenson's, John Wells, I did not find this book to be on the same level of many of the previous books in this series. John Wells seemed tired, his CIA cohorts just provided some necessary filler material and the story line was not that interesting. Never fear though, I will read the next book in the series because I find the character of John Wells to be an interesting character.
In The Night Ranger, the seventh novel in his John Wells series, Berenson casts a spotlight on one of the greatest tragedies on Earth, the plight of hundreds of thousands of refugees from the recurring drought and unending civil war in Somalia.
In most respects, The Night Ranger is a conventional thriller, with the doughty hero taking action against great odds to save humanity from great evil. In this case, he even gets to rescue two beautiful young damsels in distress, all the while his actions prevent another ill-considered invasion of a distant country by the US military. The action is virtually non-stop, and tension builds steadily toward a shattering climax, making the book progressively more difficult to set aside.
Wells, now ex-Army and ex-CIA, rushes to Dadaab, site of an enormous camp for Somali refugees in northeastern Kenya. There, four young American volunteers, working temporarily for a US charity, are kidnapped on their way to a nearby luxury vacation site. Having volunteered to attempt the young people's rescue without pay, Wells teams up with his former CIA boss, Ellis Shafer, to take advantage of the agency's electronic surveillance capabilities. As his search begins, Wells quickly learns that the situation is far more complex than he could have imagined.
What sets aside The Night Ranger from other thrillers set in exotic locales is the abundance of credible detail Berenson offers up, from a snapshot of Kenyan bureaucracy and a portrayal of Somali bandit gangs to discussions of weaponry and the tactics of hand-to-hand fighting. Alex Berenson knows stuff that few of the rest of us do.
The Night Ranger is a thoroughly enjoyable bit of escapist literature, with more than a dollop of education about the refugee crisis thrown in for good measure.