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Twelve Days (A John Wells Novel) Paperback – January 26, 2016
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Praise for Twelve Days
“Lots of thriller writers know how to work a ticking clock, and lots more come to the genre with some experience in international politics, but few put the two together as effectively as Berenson does in this compelling, globe-trotting time bomb of a novel. Action fans will get all they came for . . . but those looking for genuine insight into the subtleties of the geopolitical chess game will be equally satisfied.” —Booklist (starred review)
“This well-written and fast-moving novel delivers more than a good plot. It illustrated how in the midst of regional chaos, a great power can jump to calamitous conclusions. This one is well worth the thriller enthusiast’s time, which holds true for all the novels Berenson has written to date.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“A fast-paced, enthralling fight to the finish . . . the sort of spy thriller that locks you in a fast and ferocious grip and won’t let you go.” —Associated Press
“An extremely suspenseful read that fans will not forget any time soon.” —Suspense Magazine
“All espionage thrillers should be this good. This is a series that you should—must—be reading.” —Bookreporter.com
About the Author
This is Alex Berenson’s ninth novel featuring John Wells. As a reporter for The New York Times, Berenson covered topics ranging from the occupation of Iraq—where he was stationed for three months—to the flooding of New Orleans, to the world pharmaceutical industry, to the financial crimes of Bernard Madoff. He graduated from Yale University in 1994 with degrees in history and economics, and lives in New York City. The Faithful Spy won the 2007 Edgar Award for best first novel. He is also the author of The Wolves.
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Wells is a former CIA officer who had spent a number of years undercover in Afghanistan beginning prior to 9/11. He speaks Arabic and even joined the Muslim faith while living and fighting with the Taliban. He therefore has an understanding of the Middle East and Muslim world that is unique among CIA agents (and among fictional characters). He finally returned to the U.S. a few years after 9/11 and then ultimately left the CIA and is now continuing to play a pivotal role in geopolitical conflicts, but as a civilian. That puts him in a position that is sometimes to his advantage, and often not, and the dynamic between Wells and his former CIA bosses and colleagues is one of the interesting elements of these stories.
This book continues a story that originated in the previous novel, The Counterfeit Agent, where the U.S. is headed towards war with Iran. The reason for the impending war is the discovery, in the previous novel, of a quantity of enriched Uranium that the President has come to believe is proof of Iran's intent to build an atomic bomb and use it against the United States. The U.S. has demanded that Iran allow inspections to determine the status of their atomic program, and when the Iranians refuse, the President gives them a deadline to comply before he attacks. Twelve Days signifies the time remaining until an attack will be made, and the story follows John Wells as he attempts to determine the truth behind the Uranium, which Iran was not responsible for, and establish evidence that can be used to stop the U.S. from attacking.
This is a remarkably timely story since we are just now in the later stages of negotiations with the Iranians and our government is working to put an agreement in place that will limit the Iranian's nuclear efforts and slow or stop their development of nuclear weapons. The book basically shows how events could go in a different direction, something that is not too far fetched and could easily be imagined as reality.
It's a great story, fast paced and relentless, as Wells jumps from the Middle East, to Russia, to the U.S. and finally to South Africa, battling not only the unseen forces behind this effort to mislead the U.S., but also battling his own government which is convinced that the evidence is solid and is not interested in what they feel are no better than conspiracy theories.
There have now been nine novels to date in the John Well's saga, and I've read them all. It's a terrific series of stories, fully equal to any of the best writers of this type of story who are currently active. I hope that Alex Berenson continues to write more John Wells stories for a very long time. I'll be reading them all just as soon as they are released.
The John Wells novels (links are to the Kindle editions):
1. The Faithful Spy - (the novel on this page) published April, 2006, received the Edgar Award
2. The Ghost War - February, 2008
3. The Silent Man - February, 2009
4. The Midnight House - February 2010
5. The Secret Soldier - February, 2011
6. The Shadow Patrol - February, 2012
7. The Night Ranger - February, 2013
8. The Counterfeit Agent - February, 2014
9. Twelve Days (this novel) - February, 2015
10. The Wolves - February, 2016
Additionally, Berenson has two other John Wells kindle products available on Amazon:
- The Kidnapping Free Short Story Preview: A short story preview for Alex Berenson's new novel The Night Ranger, featuring John Wells
- Lost in Kandahar (Kindle Single) (Search for ASIN B004S41OLI on Amazon)
Finally, Berenson has written the following book about financial matters:
"The Number: How the Drive for Quarterly Earnings Corrupted Wall Street and Corporate America" - 2003 -- search for ASIN B000FBFN1K here on Amazon (I'm unable to post this link in the review, as Amazon limits links to 10)
Whereas "The Counterfeit Agent" had an interesting, tightly-woven plot and fast pacing, "Twelve Days" tends to meander and drag. I also had the impression that Berenson wasn't really sure where he was going with this book and was struggling to fill the pages. To start, the first quarter of the book essentially recaps in detail the events of the first book. A third party actor is trying to manipulate the US into taking out Iran's nuclear installations by creating a chain of evidence implicating Iran in a nuclear terrorism plot. The problem is that in most of this book Wells is basically just following plot threads that go nowhere and don't produce any new leads or information, like the sections in Russia and Saudi Arabia. Also, one of the bigger subplots in the previous book involved the CIA's Istanbul staff trying to identify and figure out the intentions of a mysterious Iranian agent. That plot strand is all but forgotten here, and the story with "Reza" is never resolved. He simply disappears. A very unsatisfying conclusion to a storyline and characters I just spent hundreds of pages reading about in the previous book.
Much of the plot's tension is based on a ticking clock premise in which the US is preparing to go to war with Iran. But somehow Berenson fails to use this to build tension. Berenson doesn't go into much detail about the politics, diplomacy, and military actions that would precede such a war. Surely, if there was evidence implicating Iran in a nuclear terrorism scheme, Israel's own nuclear forces would be on alert, and Israel would be prepared to intervene if the US didn't. And how would the Europeans, Arabs, and UN react? An opportunity for a tense "Sum of All Fears" style crisis is instead wasted. Instead, we just get constant reminders that the US is twelve/eleven/nine/eight/etc days away from attacking, while Wells basically wastes time traveling around the world. And banter. The endless snarky banter between Wells and Duto/Shafer was becoming tedious.
"The Counterfeit Agent" really should have just been 150 pages longer and wrapped everything up in one book.
And I see that elements of this storyline continue into yet a third book, and that surely is not a good sign.... I think I'll skip it and just move onto The Prisoner (A John Wells Novel)
John Wells, who is no longer an operative with the CIA, must rely on his friend and mentor, Shafer, to provide him with intel, and help. Surprisingly, his nemesis/ally, Vincent Duto, is a Senator and sees an opportunity to put himself on the path to the Presidency, and becomes John's ally, even though there is no love lost between the two.
The 12 day countdown will keep you wondering if John, and Vincent, can bring the one person to the President who can disprove that the uranium is not from a secret Iranian cache, and stop the upcoming war.